If it’s been a minute since you’ve had a good cry over The Giving Tree, well, here’s another reminder of how our many-branched friends just keep giving, while we just keep taking: According to recent study published in Nature Scientific Reports, if you’re a city dweller that lives near a forest, you’re more likely to have great “amygdala integrity,” meaning you’re better able to manage the increased levels of stress, anxiety and depression that can come with city life.
While it’s long been established that living near nature in general and surrounding yourself with natural beauty can lead to increased happiness, forests were found to have a more significant impact than urban green spaces (a.k.a. parks) or wastelands (well, duh).
And while the context of this study focused on city dwellers who have higher rate of illness, chronic stress and mental health issues such as anxiety and depression becausethey live in the city, another recent study conducted by Oxford University and the University of Hong Kong found that certain aspects of living in a city can yield greater happiness, as opposed to those who live in less population-dense areas.
The study examined more than 400,000 residents in 22 British cities and found that walkability, social interaction and physical activity contributed significantly to overall happiness.
And while recent findings from National Geographic and author The Blue Zones of Happiness author Dan Buettner on the 25 happiest cities in the US considered factors beyond walkability and proximity to nature, these benefits were deal-makers for residents in a number of cities—including the top spot held by Boulder, Colorado.
It’s a notion that’s reinforced by the growth of populations in urban areas over the last decade or so; from 2000 and 2010, the population of urban areas grew by 12.1 percent, whereas the overall growth of the country was 9.7 percent during that same time, according to Census data from that period.
The takeaway? Living in a city can be good for you; living in a city that’s next to a forest can be even better.
As more and more people subscribe to the benefits of living in close proximity to other people, the upside may be that it encourages municipalities to take more care in urban planning, as Chinmoy Sarkar, assistant professor at the University of Hong Kong and co-author of the study, told The Guardian.
The downside, of course, is that rent prices in cities are going bonkers.
Good to know, I suppose, that when the stress of figuring out where to live becomes too much, you can just head to the nearest cluster of trees and take a “forest bath.”