In England researchers from the University of Exeter Medical School recently analyzed mental health data from 10,000 city dwellers and used high-resolution mapping to track where the subjects had lived over 18 years. They found that people living near more green space reported less mental distress, even after adjusting for income, education, and employment (all of which are also correlated with health). In 2009 a team of Dutch researchers found a lower incidence of 15 diseases—including depression, anxiety, heart disease, diabetes, asthma, and migraines—in people who lived within about a half mile of green space. And in 2015 an international team overlaid health questionnaire responses from more than 31,000 Toronto residents onto a map of the city, block by block. Those living on blocks with more trees showed a boost in heart and metabolic health equivalent to what one would experience from a $20,000 gain in income. Lower mortality and fewer stress hormones circulating in the blood have also been connected to living close to green space.
It’s difficult to tell from these kinds of studies why people feel better. Is it the fresh air? Do certain colors or fractal shapes trigger neurochemicals in our visual cortex? Or is it just that people in greener neighborhoods use the parks to exercise more? That’s what Richard Mitchell, an epidemiologist at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, thought at first. “I was skeptical,” he says. But then he did a large study that found less death and disease in people who lived near parks or other green space—even if they didn’t use them. “Our own studies plus others show these restorative effects whether you’ve gone for walks or not,” Mitchell says. Moreover, the lowest income people seemed to gain the most: In the city, Mitchell found, being close to nature is a social leveler.
Every month, I read tons of of stuff about adventure and the outdoors. I watch lots of videos. And as a result I see a lot of pretty amazing content. But I also see plenty of terrible, eye-gouging, stuff. Not exactly cats-playing-with-a-ball-of-wool-type stuff, but plenty of material that is definitely a waste of time.
The good stuff I recommend in a sort of random way to my friends, and on Twitter. But I recently came across an interesting online service that makes it very easy to create and manage a newsletter. It’s called Letterly, and I want to use it to send out a weekly newsletter that will try to capture the best of the best in online content from the worlds of adventure and the outdoors.
The Wetass Weekly will aim to be a quick weekly guide to a small selection of great articles and videos about adventure, extreme sport, or the environment–content that will be well worth your time, and be laid out in a way that lets you click right to it. My goal is to every week send you something that will amaze or inspire you. Or simply make you laugh or slap your forehead in disbelief. And it will cost just $1.99 a month (subscribing is a painless snap, via the wonders of Amazon).
I’ve just created the inaugural Wetass Weekly, to give it a try, and it includes links to–among other recommendations–the best article you will ever read about mankind’s checkered efforts to control the waters of the mighty Mississippi (I know this because the author was placed on this earth to write about exactly this sort of topic), an inside look at danger and death in professional cycling, and a mesmerizing video about the devastating practice of shark finning. Plus, I tell you about the best documentary I’ve seen since Grizzly Man.
You can check it out by subscribing here. And don’t worry, if you don’t find anything I send you each week remotely interesting or worthwhile, unsubscribing just takes one click on the Unsubscribe link at the bottom of every newsletter.