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Stuff that matters

Good nature

To reduce obesity and depression, we need more nature in our lives.

Nature is an overlooked antidote: People who live near green spaces are generally happier and report better physical and mental health.

A new report from the Institute for European Environmental Policy examines the links between nature, equity, and well-being. Researchers reviewed more than 200 studies on the topic.

In urban areas with more trees, doctors prescribed fewer antidepressants, according to a London study. And in Denmark, people living within 330 yards of green spaces were less likely to be obese and more likely to engage in rigorous exercise.

But access to nature — and the benefits that ensue — aren’t equally distributed across populations. Minorities and low-income people tend to live farther from parks and tree-packed areas.

The report calls for doubling down on efforts to make natural areas accessible to disadvantaged groups. For example, instituting building codes with standards for nature proximity, and creating health policies that account for the preventative benefits of the great outdoors.

On average, we spend only 5 percent of our time outside. So — how about going for a nice, long walk?