Stress and stress-related illnesses, as reflected in medical records, have increased dramatically among adults and children in Western societies. A growing part of the budget for medical service in Sweden is used for individuals suffering from different stress-related illnesses such as burnout syndrome, insomnia and fatigue, depression, feelings of panic, etc. In this paper, we present results from a study in which 953 randomly selected individuals in nine Swedish cities answered a questionnaire about their health and their use of different urban open green spaces in and close to the city.
The results indicate that city landscape planning may affect the health of town-dwellers. Statistically significant relationships were found between the use of urban open green spaces and self-reported experiences of stress – regardless of the informant’s age, sex and socio-economic status. The results suggest that the more often a person visits urban open green spaces, the less often he or she will report stress-related illnesses. The same pattern is shown when time spent per week in urban open green spaces is measured.
The distance to public urban open green spaces seems to be of decisive importance, as is access to a garden, in the form of a private garden or a green yard immediately adjacent to, for instance, an apartment building. People do not usually compensate for lack of green environments in their own residential area with more visits to public parks or urban forests.
According to our results, laying out more green areas close to apartment houses, and making these areas more accessible, could make for more restorative environments. Outdoor areas that provide environments free from demands and stress, and that are available as part of everyday life, could have significant positive effects on the health of town-dwellers in Sweden. This may also apply to other Western societies.