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09/05/2018

UK parks deliver £34bn of health benefits, suggests report

Words: Laura Edgar
Greenwich Park / iStock-179217853

Parks and green spaces in the United Kingdom provide people with over £34 billion of health and well-being benefits, according to charity Fields in Trust.

The benefits are the result of people regularly using parks and green spaces, giving them greater life satisfaction and improved physical and mental health, the charity’s recent research suggests.

Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces calculates that the NHS saves £111 million as a result of people using parks. The figure is based on prevented GP visits. Should savings from non-referrals for treatment of prescriptions be included, Fields in Trust said the savings to the taxpayer would be much more. The “Well-being Value” associated with frequently using parks and green spaces is worth £34.2 billion a year to the UK adult population.

The report states that a person “would need to be compensated by £974 a year to replace the life satisfaction they would have gained from using their local park or green space (more than once per month)”.

While people who visit parks less than once a month still value the existence of parks and green spaces, the study says the value of parks is higher for individuals from lower socio-economic groups, and black and minority ethnic backgrounds.

A loss of parks therefore, will disproportionately hit those who value them the most.

Additionally, recent research from the Fields in Trust showed that 16 per cent (one in five) people said their local park or green space has been under threat of being lost or has already been built on.

This research came at the same time as the charity launched Green Spaces for Good, a strategy that commits Fields in Trust to protecting more parks and green spaces than the 2,700 that it already does. It is aiming to have 75 per cent of the UK population within a 10-minute walk of a protected park of green space by 2022.

Helen Griffiths, chief executive of Fields in Trust, said that at a time when parks and green spaces are under threat, the report is “valuable evidence that the loss of green space is hugely damaging to people's welfare”.

"The research also confirms that any decision by a public body to remove a park or green space is completely short-sighted – and will in fact likely cost more money than is saved. In health alone parks and green spaces saved the NHS at least £111 million per year through prevented GP visits – enough to pay for more than 3,500 nurses,” explained Griffiths.

"The evidence is now clear; green spaces are good, they do good and they need to be protected for good.”

Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces can be found on the Fields in Trust website (pdf).

Image credit | iStock

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