A new study reveals that being in natural spaces not only makes us feel good, it can lower our health care costs.
Posted in , May 25, 2022
It’s not hard to wax poetic about the broad and deep benefits of spending time in natural spaces, from awe-inspiring national parks to the simple loveliness of a walk around a city park or tree-lined neighborhood street, to some time working in the dirt of your own garden.
A new study from researchers at Clemson University have found yet another benefit to simply putting your body in a natural space: it can lower the amount of money you spend on health care.
“The mechanisms linking nature and health are very diverse,” said Matthew H.E.M. Browning, the principal investigator on the study, “but the benefits are believed to be in part because being in green space can decrease stress, promote healthy behaviors and improve air quality."
Browning and his team used satellite data to investigate how much green space was within 250, 500 and 1,000 meters (820, 1,640, and 3,280 feet) of five million northern California residents who were insured by Kaiser Permanente. They then determined the costs the insurance company paid out to those same members over a two-year period. They took into account age, gender, race / ethnicity and a number of neighborhood characteristics including population density and education levels.
Even with all these factors incorporated into their analysis, the researchers found that those who lived near the most green space had an average of $374 less per year in health care expenses as compared to those who lived farther from natural spaces.
The researchers hope their findings will support public policies that prioritize natural elements in residential areas. For you, maybe this learning will inspire you to plant a tree or a potted flower today—or find a pleasant bench to enjoy, with a view of some health-giving, green goodness.