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Invited Commentary
Public Health
July 26, 2019

Comparison of the Health Benefits of Different Types of Nature

Author Affiliations
  • 1Wageningen Environmental Research, Wageningen University & Research, Wageningen, the Netherlands
JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(7):e198215. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.8215

In their study, Astell-Burt and Feng1 address 2 important limitations of much of the research on contact with nearby nature and human health and well-being.2 The first one is its cross-sectional design, preventing the ability to draw firm conclusions regarding the causality of observed associations. The second one is that most studies do not distinguish between different types of green and/or blue space and consequently tell us little about which type of nature is most beneficial. In their study, they begin to address this gap by making efficient use of longitudinal health data already collected for other purposes and enriching these data with land-use data on the availability of green and blue space in the residential environment. Consequently, in addition to prevalence data, incidence data were available on high risk of psychological distress, physician-diagnosed anxiety and/or depression, and less than good self-rated health. Furthermore, they distinguished 3 types of vegetation: tree canopy, grass, and low-lying vegetation. They concluded that tree canopy may be more beneficial than the other 2 types.

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