Whole body health
Social prescriptions – non-medical treatments where patients are encouraged to spend time in local nature spaces – based on hundreds of studies showing the endless benefits to people’s psychological well-being and increased social engagement. Within a 5 minute walk, residents of Collett’s Corner can be at the waterfront or at the start of one of many walking tracks.
A blue prescription
The power of water has been known since ancient times. If you do have access to blue space, it can make you happier, reduce your stress levels, improve your quality of life and make you more sociable and altruistic, intuitively being close to water can induce feelings of calm. People tend to be more physically active in environments where there is access to water, and you’re more likely to meet people there, either on an impromptu basis or for organised activities.
Researchers think that the soft visual stimuli of water – the patterns of light falling on it– holds our attention without any conscious effort and allows recovery from cognitive fatigue, providing scope for reflection. This idea, called Attention Restoration Theory, argues that fascination in the natural environment – in this context, the curiosity, and wonder that water sparks – is a critical environmental cue in the process of psychological restoration.
Targeting health problems via blue prescriptions is not a new one. Sea bathing and the fresh sea air was prescribed by doctors in the 19th century to treat a range of health concerns. Recent studies where blue care interventions, such as a beach activity, swimming, sailing, fishing or canoeing, were used to treat individuals with specific mental health problems – including PTSD, addiction and depression – and people with physical disabilities found that blue care interventions delivered direct benefits for health, especially mental health and social well-being.
Source: Blue care, a systematic review of blue space interventions for health and wellbeing: is published in Health Promotion International, Volume 35, Issue 1, February 2020
A green prescription
Recent studies suggest that regular exposure to green space delivers long-lasting and deep impacts to both physical and mental health along with significant social benefits. People living with higher levels of green space exposure are more likely to report good overall health according to data from 20 countries including the UK, the US, Spain, France, Germany, Australia and Japan. Green space was defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation, which included urban parks. Experts analysed how the health of people with little access to green spaces compared to that of people with the highest amounts of exposure.
Key findings: reduced risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death and increased sleep duration. One of the really interesting things researchers found is that exposure to greenspace significantly reduces people’s levels of salivary cortisol a physiological marker of stress.
Study co-author Prof Andy Jones, from UEA, said: “We often reach for medication when we’re unwell but exposure to health-promoting environments is increasingly recognised as both preventing and helping treat disease. Our study shows that the size of these
benefits can be enough to have a meaningful clinical impact.”
Source: A systematic review and meta-analysis of greenspace exposure and health outcomes’ is published in the journal Environmental Research on 6 July 2019.