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The Link Between Biodiversity & Mental Health

January 15th, 2020

It has been widely accepted for some time now that the addition of a natural landscape to an urban area can lift moods and make us generally feel better.

Mental Health Statistics: UK and Worldwide

With a recent study by the UK Mental Health Foundation highlighting just how serious a problem this is becoming, finding an effective method of combatting this has never been more important.

  • mental health is the main cause of overall disease burden and the primary cause of disability globally, resulting in more than 40m person-years of disability annually in 20–29-year-olds per year around the world
  • 1 in 6 people in the UK experiences a common mental health problem every week
  • anxiety and depression is the cause of 20% of days lost from work each year in the UK.

However, despite our increasingly urbanised, high-density and the high-pressure world, there is growing evidence that a proven way to help reduce stress levels and improve mental health may be available to us in the form of green roofs.

Losing contact with the outdoors

Losing contact with the outdoors has, therefore, become commonplace over the last century as a result of living in modern spaces. Spending more time indoors, being glued to screens and sedentary lifestyles have contributed to this disengagement with nature.

As of 2018, 55 per cent of the global population was inhabiting urban spaces across the world, according to a report by the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Projections for the year 2050 estimated that 2.5 billion people in the world or 68 per cent of the world’s population will occupy urban areas.

While natural spaces continue to decrease within cities, there is an urgent need to address the impact of losing contact with nature on mental health. In a reflective piece for The Conversation, Dr Zoe Myers, author of “Wildness and Wellbeing: Nature, Neuroscience, and Urban Design,” suggested building greener neighbourhoods through constructing small biodiverse patches, as opposed to long green corridors with logistical challenges.

“If the evidence shows that nature contact helps to buffer against negative impacts from other environmental predictors of health, then access to these landscapes can be considered a matter of environmental justice,” Greg Bratman, lead author of a study published in the journal of Science Advances in 2019, said.

For more on this story, please click here to visit the Medical Daily website.

How can green roofs help?

Green roofs, whether retrofits or installed onto new builds, already offer a variety of environmental and financial benefits. Social benefits can now be added to the list.

A Texan study of post-surgery recovery in hospitals has even demonstrated that recovery was quicker and with less chance of relapse if patients could look out onto a green space. A number of American hospitals have subsequently been redesigned to bring these benefits to patients and have been rewarded with greater patient ‘through-put’.

Please click here for more information on this study.

Additional benefits include:

  • Attenuating stormwater run-off
  • Improve air quality
  • Mitigate the urban heat island
  • Improve biodiversity
  • Enhance thermal performance

Please Note – Along with offering environmental and social benefits, proximity to green spaces and plants has also been demonstrated to increase productivity in the workplace.

For more on the M-Tray®, Wallbarn’s unique modular green roof, please click here.