If you want to feel healthier, live somewhere more scenic according to new results from a study carried out by the University of Warwick, UK.
The team of researchers behind the study collected more than 1.5 million ratings on the ‘scenicness' of more than 212,000 pictures of Britain. To collect the ratings researchers used a website, called Scenic-Or-Not, which asked people to rate pictures on a scale of one to 10, with 1 representing "not scenic" and 10 "very scenic." To assess a link between scenicness and feelings of health the researchers then combined these ratings with data from the 2011 Census for England and Wales, where people reported their general health as "very good", "good", "fair", "bad" or "very bad."
The results, published in the journal Scientific Reports this week, show that people who lived in areas rated as more scenic reported their health to be better. And although areas of the UK with a large amount of greenery, such as the Lake District, were given a high scenic rating and linked with a high rating of healthiness, scenicness does not necessarily mean greenness.
A high rating of scenicness is possible even in areas without a large amount of green space, with the study also finding a link between scenicness and feelings of healthiness in urban and suburban areas, not only the more rural areas of England. Chanuki Seresinhe from Warwick Business School and one of the authors of the study, commented saying, "This is a fascinating finding. Just because a place is green does not compel us to feel better on its own. It seems to be that the beauty of the environment, as measured by scenicness, is of crucial importance."
There are however other factors that may influence how healthy a person feels. "We also control for socioeconomic characteristics that may be linked with health, such as income and employment. On top of this, we ran an additional analysis to account for levels of air pollution. After building all these factors into our analysis, we find that across all of England, people report better health when living in areas of greater scenicness."
On what the study could mean for the future of urban planning, Seresinhe commented, "Our results suggest that the beauty of our everyday environment might have more practical importance than was previously believed. In order to ensure the wellbeing of local inhabitants urban planners and policymakers might find it valuable to consider the aesthetics of the environment when embarking upon large projects to build new parks, housing developments or highways. Our findings imply that simply introducing greenery, without considering the beauty of the resulting environment, might not be enough."