A recent study published in BMJ Open investigated whether access to green environments impacts students’ perceived levels of stress.
It is believed that over 66% of the world’s population will be living in urban areas by 2060. This is expected to hit 92% in Germany. Chronic job stress is an increasing problem in the global population. Large cities do offer advantages such as industrialisation and economic growth by offering better liveability and benefits socially and health-wise. However, well-being and health can be impacted by fewer social interactions and greater psychological stressors. This can lower an individual’s productivity, lead to absence from work, and eventually leads to early retirement.
Access to green spaces is believed to help increase physical activity, social contact, and allow people to recover from demanding tasks. There are not many studies that investigate access to green environments and job satisfaction. A recent study investigated the access to green spaces at home and its association to work overload and work discontent. The study used a well-established test that measures the stress of transitioning from school or university life to work life. The results were published in the BMJ Open Access journal in April 2018.
For the study, they used the participants’ addresses to obtain a measure of greenness, estimating green areas around each individual’s home. Satellite images helped to assess the area of green spaces available directly outside the participants’ homes. The stress outside the workplace and university environment were also taken into account, using four subscales: social overload, lack of social recognition, chronic worrying, and stressful memories. These non-job related chronic stress scales allowed to bring forward self-perceived stress outside of the study or work environment.
They also categorized occupational status as an employee, university student, vocational trainee, self-employed, unemployed, and other. Each working participant belonged to one of the five job groups. Further environmental variables were considered for the study. The distance of the participants address to sports facilities, the nearest urban green space, and the amount of tree coverage were all considered.
The study yielded the results in line with previous findings that more green space around participants’ living areas corresponds to less job stress in individuals moving from school or university to work. Greenness and exposure to surroundings that are non-urban have positive health impacts. Increased opportunities for physical activities, greater access to sports and recreational activities, all led to reduced stress. Recreation and recovery from stress are more feasible when there are more green spaces, balancing out stress related to school, workplace or university. Further studies could help implement better measures in urban planning allowing for better workspaces and living conditions.
Written by Sonia Leslie Fernandez, Medical News Writer
Reference: Herrera, R., Markevych, I., Berger, U., Genuneit, J., Gerlich, J., Nowak, D., … & Windstetter, D. (2018). Greenness and job-related chronic stress in young adults: a prospective cohort study in Germany. BMJ open, 8(6), e021599.