Green spaces reduce air pollution, noise, heat and stress for citizens, in addition to reducing visits to health professionals and the use of antidepressants by 13% each year. This is the result of a study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), a center promoted by the “La Caixa” Foundation.
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The research, carried out by a scientific team and published in the journal ‘Environment International’, has analyzed the impact that the implementation of an urban layout with more green space has on the health, especially mental health, of the citizens of large cities such as Barcelona.
“Barcelona has a problem that it must solve urgently. Currently, only 11% of the city is occupied by green space, and this is counting Collserola, which brings together 60% of the municipal green space”, explains Natalie Mueller, ISGlobal researcher and last author of the study.
The transformation of one in three streets into green corridors or axes is on the agenda of the City Council and belongs to the superblock project that is being carried out in a focused manner in the center of the city, specifically, in the streets of Consell de Cent, Rocafort, Comte Borrell and Girona.
The study is based on a previous analysis that quantified the surface area of green space in 2015 and the increase in green spaces that would occur with the implementation of the Green Axis plan in the municipality. In addition, the data related to the mental health of the population belong to the Barcelona Health Survey (2016-2017). Analyzing the relationship between the two, the study has calculated how the increase in this type of surfaces has an impact on various indicators of mental health in the population.
The investigation has concluded that the Green Axis plan promoted by the Barcelona City Council would report an increase of 5.67% in the green area of the city and would mean the annual prevention of 14% of the cases of self-perceived poor mental health, a 13 % of visits to mental health professionals and the use of antidepressants and 8% of the use of tranquilizers or anxiolytics.
According to the figures, the co-author of the study, Diana Vidal, has pointed out that “the study helps to illustrate that greening is a relevant strategy to promote health and, in particular, mental health, in urban environments.” Even so, Evelise Pereira, an ISGlobal researcher and co-author of the study, believes that much work remains to be done because “currently only 20% of the population of Barcelona has access to green spaces recommended by the WHO.”