HEALTH

Enjoying nature may lessen need for some medications, study finds

Jan 16, 2023, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:01 pm
People enjoy nature at a lake in Finland. (Giulio Andreini/UCG/Getty Images via CNN)...
People enjoy nature at a lake in Finland. (Giulio Andreini/UCG/Getty Images via CNN)
(Giulio Andreini/UCG/Getty Images via CNN)

(CNN) — Going for a walk in a park or along a lake or a tree-lined space may reduce the need for medication for anxiety, asthma, depression, high blood pressure or insomnia, a new study found.

“Physical activity is thought to be the key mediating factor in the health benefits of green spaces when availability or active use of green space are considered,” said study coauthor Anu Turunen, a senior researcher at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare in Helsinki, in an email.

The study found visiting nature three to four times a week was associated with 36% lower odds of using blood pressure pills, 33% lower odds of using mental health medications, and 26% lower odds of using asthma medications.

“The analysis can reveal key associations, but we can’t say for certain whether it was the greenspace proximity or use that led to reduced use of medications,” said Lincoln Larson, an associate professor in the College of Natural Resources at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, who was not involved in the study.

“Perhaps people who were healthier to begin with (and less likely to take prescription drugs) were more likely to get outdoors in the first place,” Larson said via email.

Green and blue space

The study, published Monday, Jan. 16, in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, interviewed approximately 6,000 random people in three of the largest cities in Finland about their use of green and blue spaces within a kilometer of their homes.

Green spaces included forests, gardens, parks, cemeteries, moors, natural grasslands, wetlands and zoos. Blue spaces included lakes, rivers and the sea.

Prior studies have found people living near green spaces reap significant health benefits. A 2016 study compared the amount of plant life and vegetation near the homes of almost 100,000 women. After eight years, the researchers found having access to the most green space reduced the women’s death rate by 12% — and improved their mental health.

2019 study of green spaces around the globe found people who live near them are less likely to die prematurely. Even doctors are beginning to prescribe nature as a treatment for mental health, as CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta explored in an episode of his podcast series, Chasing Life

Views from home

The new study also investigated the impact of being able to view green or blue spaces from home on the use of medications. Observing nature while indoors didn’t appear to work.

“Just seeing nature didn’t really move the needle, but experiencing it did. Other research points to similar conclusions,” said Larson, who has studied the benefits of public parks across the United States on the well-being of urban dwellers.

“If you want to reap the full health benefits that nature can provide, you have to immerse yourself in those settings,” he said.

While research hasn’t yet been able to show a true association, Larson still believes in the benefits of seeing, as well as experiencing nature.

“If you don’t have access to those places, simply seeing green space (or perhaps even experiencing virtual nature) is better than nothing,” he added.

You might even put a plant on your desk. A 2019 study found taking care of plants in the workplace slightly reduced stress for Japanese workers — unless their plant died. On an objective measurement, 27% of the workers showed a significant decrease in their resting heart rate, according to the study.


The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Health

Doctors work on a liver transplant at Intermountain Health hospital...
Emily Ashcraft, KSL.com 

Intermountain Health breaks organ transplant record again

SALT LAKE CITY — Intermountain Health announced Tuesday that it broke its own record for adult organ transplants during 2022, reaching 300 donations KSL.com reported. The organization thanked its donors and caregivers in a statement Tuesday for a fourth record-breaking year for the transplant program. Organ transplants last year included 104 livers, 159 kidneys, 29 […]
20 hours ago
File image of swimming pool (KSL TV)...
Michael Houck and Shara Park

Dozens of Salt Lake County public swimming pools closed due to safety concerns

About 150 public pools in Salt Lake County will shut down after not meeting updated state safety requirements.
2 days ago
Rose Tonti, 101,Mary Kawakami, 110, Hal Edison, 103, and King Green, 100. (KSL-TV)...
Annie Knox and Ashley Moser

Four Utah centenarians share advice collected over more than 100 years

An immigrant, a World War II veteran, an avid outdoorsman and an entrepreneur. They all spoke with KSL recently, but that’s not all they have in common. Each is over 100 years old. And with all that life experience, they have some insight to share.
3 days ago
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 18: U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy speaks during the United States Conf...
Allison Gordon and Pamela Brown

Surgeon General says 13 is ‘too early’ to join social media

US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says he believes 13 is too young for children to be on social media platforms.
3 days ago
...
Ayanna Likens

Tips to set realistic mental health goals

If you are planning on setting a goal to prioritize your mental health this year, Dr. Kristin Francis at Huntsman Mental Health Institute recommends starting with small goals.
5 days ago
An apparent shortage of pharmacists is forcing CVS and Walmart to reduce the hours of its pharmacie...
Jordan Valinsky

CVS and Walmart cut pharmacy hours, close some locations earlier, citing staffing shortage

An apparent shortage of pharmacists is forcing CVS and Walmart to reduce the hours of its pharmacies, as they close earlier in thousands of locations.
5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiber Optical cables connected to an optic ports and Network cables connected to ethernet ports...
Brian Huston, CE and Anthony Perkins, BICSI

Why Every Business Needs a Structured Cabling System

A structured cabling system benefits businesses by giving you faster processing speeds and making your network more efficient and reliable.
notebook with password notes highlighted...
PC Laptops

How to Create Strong Passwords You Can Actually Remember

Learn how you can create strong passwords that are actually easy to remember! In a short time you can create new ones in seconds.
house with for rent sign posted...
Chase Harrington, president and COO of Entrata

Top 5 Reasons You May Want to Consider Apartment Life Over Owning a Home

There are many benefits of renting that can be overshadowed by the allure of buying a home. Here are five reasons why renting might be right for you.
Festive kitchen in Christmas decorations. Christmas dining room....
Lighting Design

6 Holiday Decor Trends to Try in 2022

We've rounded out the top 6 holiday decor trends for 2022 so you can be ahead of the game before you start shopping. 
Happy diverse college or university students are having fun on their graduation day...
BYU MBA at the Marriott School of Business

How to Choose What MBA Program is Right for You: Take this Quiz Before You Apply!

Wondering what MBA program is right for you? Take this quiz before you apply to see if it will help you meet your goals.
Diverse Group of Energetic Professionals Team Meeting in Modern Office: Brainstorming IT Programmer...
Les Olson

Don’t Let a Ransomware Attack Get You Down | Protect Your Workplace Today with Cyber Insurance

Business owners and operators should be on guard to protect their workplace. Cyber insurance can protect you from online attacks.
Enjoying nature may lessen need for some medications, study finds