Is Green the New Yellow?

A recent study at the University of Exeter Medical School found that happiness may actually be influenced by the amount of greenspace in one’s community. This study focused on changes in happiness in the two years prior to moving to a community with more greenspace, as well as the three years following that move. In the three years after the move, the researchers found that not only were individuals happier than they were before they moved, but on average, they retained that same level of happiness.


Sneak Peak at Freshkills Park, photograph by Michael Anton, NYC Department of Sanitation

One of the researchers, Dr. Ian Alcock, believes that happiness levels are sustained after a move because greener urban areas have a lasting impact on one’s mental health. Dr. Alcock contrasts the increase in one’s happiness levels to getting married. While the initial jump into marriage feels incredible, after some time, one’s happiness levels inevitably sink back to normal again. However, Dr. Alcock claims that greenspace may have the effects of getting married without the predictable plummet of happiness. In some ways, moving to a greener community might be the best mental health decision one can make!

After performing this five year-long study involving 1,000 participants, and analyzing the results of the British Household Panel Survey, researchers recommend that people choose to live in an urban community filled with abundant greenspace. These communities have cleaner air, more aesthetically pleasing sites, and most importantly, happier residents! Living in close proximity to greenspace is an invaluable luxury, that hopefully every New Yorker will experience as part of PlaNYC’s initiative. Moving into neighborhoods bordering Freshkills Park can benefit from the radical change of the site into beautiful greenspace.  While yellow might have been the color associated with happiness in the past (most notably, the “smiley face”), the future color of happiness is green.

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