Does Living Near A Forest Make You Happier?

Brain response to various natural triggers


Berlin, Germany (September 20, 2017) – New research says living near a forest, even if you’re in the city, has a positive impact. A long-term study conducted by the Max Planck Institute for Human Development found another key relationship between humans and nature. What does this mean for urban planners?

It’s been confirmed many times that humans are better able to cope with chronic stress and are happier when connected with nature. However, this study finds that forests, in particular, are one of the best remedies.

People living in cities face many physical and psychiatric challenges, including systematically increased rates of illness, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, and chronic stress. These rates are all much higher than their country living counterparts. However, the research team sought out whether living near different natural landscapes would help with these illnesses.

The team studied individuals living near urban green spaces, forests, and wastelands to determine its influence on the amygdala, which regulates stress in the brain. The team found significant evidence that city dwellers living near a forest were more likely to have healthy amygdalas and thus better able to manage stress, anxiety, and depression.

Interestingly, the study was not able to find any significant difference in city dwellers that lived near urban green spaces or wastelands. Hence, the team concluded that living near a forest is one of the most significant positive factors urban dwellers can do to reduce stress and increase happiness.

Interesting follow up research may compare living near other natural landscapes compared to forests. The researchers sum it up noting that humans have a “pervasive Pleistocene taste in landscape.” However, with age that preference changes often times to the natural landscape (not cities) each individual spends the most time in.

It is estimated that by the year 2050 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in a city. While the health and psychological downsides to city living are apparent, it is possible to plan for escapes and natural environments nearby cities.

Should a city build a green space, a golf course, or leave the area forested? Those are important questions as cities become more populated and its residents cope with a disconnect from nature. This study and ones to follow can help urban planners develop cities that maximize happiness, efficiency, and opportunity.

Sources: Simone Kühn, Sandra Düzel, Peter Eibich, Christian Krekel, Henry Wüstemann, Jens Kolbe, Johan Martensson, Jan Goebel, Jürgen Gallinat, Gert G. Wagner & Ulman Lindenberger, “In search of features that constitute an ‘enriched environment’ in humans: Associations between geographical properties and brain structure,” Nature Scientific Reports; Trevor Nace, “Living Near A Forest Will Make You Happier, Study Finds,” Forbes


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