Having green spaces like parks and community gardens in your neighbourhood could be associated with slower biological aging, new international research suggests.
The long-term study involved more than 900 people in the US. Researchers found people with more green space around them were likely to see their epigenetics (the way our DNA is organised and regulated) degrade slower, which can reduce the symptoms of aging. The US and Spanish author team also found that the link between epigenetic aging and green spaces was even stronger in people from disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
The SMC asked local experts to comment on the research.
Dr Mirjam Schindler, Lecturer in Human Geography, Victoria University of Wellington, comments:
"The study by Kim and co-authors suggests that living near green spaces may lead to slower epigenetic aging, which has significant implications for future housing strategies in New Zealand cities. As an expert in urban green spaces in Aotearoa and overseas, I am thrilled to see further evidence quantifying the benefits provided by green spaces and their pivotal role in creating healthy living environments.
"This study provides valuable insights that urban planners and decision-makers need to take note of, especially in the ongoing discussions on housing strategies. The study reinforces the urgency of creating ample, high-quality green spaces that meet residents' needs, ensuring their accessibility and the subsequent reaping of benefits. Close proximity to green spaces is key to unlocking their health effects, including the potential to slow epigenetic aging.
"Additionally, the study confirms existing disparities in access to green spaces and their associated benefits among different population groups, including various ethnicities and age groups. Similar disparities have been observed in previous green space research in New Zealand and internationally. The study underscores the role of our living environment, including green spaces near our homes, as a significant determinant of our health. Therefore, it is crucial that future housing strategies in New Zealand cities prioritise the conservation and expansion of urban green spaces, aiming to bridge the gap in access and make them available to all. Ensuring easy accessibility to nearby green spaces, regardless of socioeconomic status, has the potential to address health disparities. This necessitates thoughtful planning and strategic distribution of green spaces throughout our cities, considering factors such as population density and neighborhood demographics.
"The study's findings highlight the importance of green spaces for promoting healthy living environments and the need to prioritise their conservation and integration in future housing strategies for our Aotearoa cities."
No conflict of interest declared.