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Can Trees Make You Happy? A New Study Says Yes

Can Trees Make You Happy? A New Study Says Yes
A new study believes green cover reduces odds of loneliness, Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com
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Under a research project, a smartphone app investigated the relationship between living in a city and loneliness, and had some interesting conclusions

Mallika Bhagat
January 05 , 2022
03 Min Read

‘Being alone never felt right. Sometimes it felt good, but it never felt right.” Charles Bukowski’s words have never been more true. In a world run on social media statistics, it is a safe assumption that one is never really alone. But, in spite of increased access to conversations, social gathering and people, why are we lonely? 

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Universal, yet deeply personal, this discrepancy between one’s desired and actual social contact leads to loneliness; amid the pandemic, with social contact at an all-time low due to covid-induced restrictions, there has been a significant impact on mental health of individuals around the world. A UK study has gone on to predict loneliness reaching an epidemic proportion unless the situation is rectified. Scientists believe this loneliness could be due to urbanisation. To that end, a new research project by King’s College London, landscape architects J&L Gibbons and arts foundation Nomad Projects, developed a smartphone app to investigate the relationship between living in a city and loneliness in real time.

The App

The app used a technique called ecological momentary assessment, which involves sending participants prompts at random times, to get answers about their ongoing experiences, including information on their location, environment and state of mind. A total of 16,602 assessments were completed by 756 people globally, with about 50% of participants located in the UK and the rest situated in Europe, US and Australia.

According to the app, people felt more lonely in crowded places

The Results

The study brought out interesting conclusions. For instance, being in overcrowded environments increased loneliness by up to 38%. On the other hand, being with people who are like us, who share the same values, decreased loneliness by 21%. The conclusion? It is the quality of our interactions that matter and not the quantity. 

I always wondered why my grandparents felt happier when they were out on the balcony, basking in the sun to the sound of birds. This study had an interesting conclusion that answered my question - People were 28% less likely to feel lonely in urban settings with natural features such as trees, plants and birds relative to urban settings which are missing these features. Called ‘ecosystem services’ the value additions made by living nature - be it purification of water, food grains, animals and their environments - add to our quality of life, and in turn to our emotional and mental wellbeing. 

Living in green areas, even in a city, can reduce loneliness in people

According to the study, living in an area with 10-20% of green cover can reduce the odds of loneliness by 16.7% over a course of four years, which can then be reduced by 27% if the green cover is over 30%. It is no wonder then, that people who live away from city lights in close harmony with nature, are generally happier. And to mimic that environment in urban areas will stimulate the same response in us, leading to happier individuals. 

 


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