Could exposure to biodiverse urban green spaces reduce the burden of pain

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Jessica Stanhope, Martin Breed, Philip Weinstein

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Pain is one of the leading causes of years lived with disability, and is often poorly managed. We argue that exposure to biodiverse green spaces may reduce the high burden of pain. There is emerging evidence supporting the positive impacts of green space exposure on human health, including for cardiovascular conditions, and mental health, however the impact of green space exposure on pain outcomes is poorly understood. Green space exposure brings with it exposure to specific elements of the environment (e.g. exposure to the sights and sounds of nature, the environmental microbiome, and biogenic volatile organic compounds), and more generic factors (e.g. exposure to sunlight and negative air ions, and the promotion of both physical activity and social interaction). Each of these elements of green space exposure may positively influence pain outcomes. For example, there is emerging evidence that the environmental microbiome influences the human microbiome, and evidence supporting an association between the individual’s microbiome and their pain outcomes. Furthermore, there are established mechanisms that link the gut microbiota and pain outcomes. While the evidence in this area is in its infancy, there is sufficient evidence to support increasing green space exposure, particularly biodiverse green spaces, to reduce the burden of pain. Accessible biodiverse green spaces are therefore required in urban areas, and both conservation and restoration will play an important role in their development and maintenance. Furthermore, multidisciplinary research is required to optimize these green spaces, and both conservation biologists and restoration ecologists will be critical in this work.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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