CSLA’s Human Health and Well-Being Committee releases paper on mental health and well-being

Photo credit: Felix Mittermeier

CSLA’s Human Health and Well-Being Committee has released a paper called The Power of Nature for Mental Health and Well-Being.

The paper, which was written by Maude Dubois and Camille Plourde-Lescelleur on behalf of the CSLA’s Committee on Human Health and Well-Being, highlights the benefits of nature on mental health as well as the need for landscape architects’ involvement.

“Many urban landscapes in North America were built when infectious diseases were the largest societal burden and germ theory was within its infancy. These conditions  led to a fundamental change in our understanding of disease and the benefits of nature and outdoor spaces,” reads CSLA’s website, noting that large parks provide, fresh air, stress relief, access to “green” and reprieve from conditions which can perpetuate the spread and growth of infectious disease.

“Today, we face rapid environmental changes and an epidemic of non-communicable diseases with risk factors including physical inactivity, air pollution, mental health issues and unhealthy diets. Once again, landscape architects possess the skills to positively impact the natural and built environments to address public health issues.”

One of the roles of the CSLA’s Human Health and Well-Being Committee is to provide resources to further their knowledge on the impact of their practice on public health.

As a result, the paper notes that mental health is a major concern for healthcare professionals with nearly half of Canadians experiencing mental health issues by the age of 40.

“The diversity in the practice enables landscape architects to actively contribute to improving the health and wellbeing of Canadians by making natural spaces more accessible,” reads the paper.

Nearly three in four Canadians live in a large urban centre and urbanites are more likely to experience anxiety and depression. The paper notes that this phenomenon cost the healthcare system an estimated $79.9 billion. “Even in the city, nature has significant positive impacts on mental health: 90 minutes spent in a natural environment can reduce activity in a brain region linked to mental illness risks.”

The paper also noted that rapid growth of large cities and increasing urban sprawl have negatively impacted the availability of natural spaces depriving residents of beneficial contact with nature.

Additionally, the paper highlighted that studies have shown that “small greening actions” matter and have a positive impact on mental health and that landscape architects can intervene on several fronts.

“We don’t experience natural environments enough to realize how restored they can make us feel, nor are we aware that studies also show they make us healthier, more creative, more empathetic, and more apt to engage with the world and with each other. Nature, it turns out, is good for civilization,” said Florence Williams, author of The Nature Fix: Why Nature Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.

The CSLA is an advocate for its members on issues such as urban revitalization, cultural heritage, sustainable development, and climate adaptation.

To read the full paper, click here.