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Study finds that access to parks improves health

7 November 2008

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Living near parks and forests reduces the health gap between the rich and poor, new research suggests.

The study, published in the Lancet, found that using parks and playing fields for walks and other activities lowers blood pressure and reduces the harmful effects of stress.

And this was found to be the case regardless of the users’ social class, scientists at the University of Glasgow said.

Dr Richard Mitchell, based at the university’s department of Public Health and Health Policy, said: “Not everyone has equal access to green spaces, but when people do have access they tend to use them, regardless of what part of the social spectrum they are from. This has a direct impact on their health.

“Obviously, resources must still be ploughed into trying to narrow the inequality gap between rich and poor, and with that will come advances in the population’s general health.

“However, we would encourage the Government to consider carefully what their policy on green spaces is and to bear this research in mind when planning urban areas for the future.”

Researchers obtained mortality records for 366,348 people in England from 2001-2005. They found that in the greenest areas the health gap between the richest and poorest people was about half as big as that in the least green areas.

Copyright © Press Association 2008

The Lancet