Investing in trees seems one of the best ways to address increasing mental health issues. Public green spaces are a cost-effective pro-mental health infrastructure – studies show.
The greener the city, the highest level of wellbeing
More than half (54%) of the world’s population lives in cities. By 2050 it is expected to be 66%. As mental health conditions increase worldwide, addressing them through innovative public policies benefits public health and economics.
‘We need to treat trees as a value, as an asset rather than a cost’ – Justyna Glusman, the Sustainable Development Head Coordinator at Warsaw City Hall, explained during the Digital Roads to Sustainability. – ‘If we start thinking of something as an asset, then we have to ask the question of how much value does this asset present.’
Nature is an active tool for protecting citizens’ health. When the tree coverage in the city is lower than 30%, it has a negative impact on people’s health. The re-naturalization of urban landscapes has become a new trend in urbanistic studies. One of the initiatives in this respect is Urban Forestry, a project that aims to make cities an integral part of their solution by increasing the number of forests and trees.
City green spaces
The Covid epidemic has brought a new perspective on our cities, housing, lifestyle, and work. The concept of a 15-minutes city frequently returns in public discussions. A city where people can reach basic facilities – shops, hospital, work, school – within a quarter of an hour by bike or walking is very promising.
This little town within a metropolis should be linked by green corridors, the passageways of parks, and other green spaces that increase interaction for urban citizens with nature. In the best scenario, such green lanes should cross not only cities but entire countries and continents. In such a manner, there would be access to greenery from everywhere.
Well-known nature therapy uses nature to improve mental and physical health. It has already been proven that a minimum of 2 hours a week outdoors keeps people healthier and more relaxed. But in today’s hectic world, even as little as 120 minutes weekly becomes a luxury. Recently, doctors have started to issue green prescriptions. Contact with nature can help to overcome some health problems and accelerate recovery.
Urban greenery also improves the air quality. Leaves and roots absorb CO2 and fossil fuel emissions, produce oxygen, and reduce pollutants. It is already possible to measure the value of ecosystem services for a city budget, as Justyna Glusman showed in her presentation. Monitoring and investing in urban green spaces reduce the public cost of healthcare as well as environmental risks.