GREEN spaces could be beneficial for neurological health, according to the results of recent research undertaken at the University of British Columbia. The researchers analysed data for over 600,000 adults in Metro Vancouver and found that living near green spaces conferred a protective effect against developing neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis (MS). Conversely, living less than 50 metres from a busy main road was associated with a higher risk of these disorders.
The researchers studied data from 678,000 people between the ages of 45 and 84 years who lived in Metro Vancouver between 1994 and 1998. Postcode data was used to estimate exposure air pollution, green spaces, and their proximity to busy roads.
In the follow-up period 1999–2003, there were 13,170 cases of non-Alzheimer’s dementia, 4,201 cases of Parkinson’s disease, 1,277 cases of Alzheimer’s disease, and 658 cases of MS. Living near a main road or highway was linked to a 14% and 7% increased risk of non-Alzheimer’s dementia and Parkinson’s disease, respectively. No associations could be made between air pollution and the increased risk of Alzheimer’s and MS because of the low number of cases that were identified at follow-up, but the researchers hope that a nationwide analysis will provide enough data to allow a more comprehensive analysis of the effects of air pollution on Alzheimer’s disease and MS.
Commenting on the potential of green spaces to counteract the negative impact of air pollution on neurological diseases, Prof Michael Brauer, University of British Columbia, commented: “For people who are exposed to a higher level of green space, they are more likely to be physically active and may also have more social interactions,” adding “There may even be benefits from just the visual aspects of vegetation.” He highlighted that these findings could be useful for city planners incorporating more parks into neighbourhoods.