New research published in the ‘Landscape & Urban Planning’ journal called, ‘Urban street tree density and antidepressant prescription rates—A cross-sectional study in London, UK’ found that the rate of antidepressant prescriptions is lower in those people who live in areas with more street trees. Nor does it matter if you are rich or poor. The more street trees, the less need for anti-depressant medication.
I don’t find this at all surprising & it fits into my belief that public trees are a public health issue. Put another way – the decisions made by the local council in regards to greening the streetscape can & does impact on the mental health of the residents.
We all know of streets & indeed suburbs in Marrickville LGA that are relatively green & leafy. I say “relatively” because there is no comparison with many other municipalities across Sydney & the fact that Marrickville municipality has been shown to have one of the poorest tree canopies in Sydney with just 16% canopy cover. Just cross Parramatta Road & visit Annandale or go to North Newtown to see the difference. See – http://bit.ly/1zixCtJ
There are also areas & suburbs in Marrickville LGA that have fewer & poor quality street trees & loads more hard surfaces. Add to this that birds are active in areas with good street trees & almost non-existent in those without & you see another level of impact – white noise – & I think, joy. Birds give me a lot of pleasure & I love to hear them.
Birdsong is something I stop to listen for when I travel around the municipality & I have noticed that some streets have very little birdsong. I may see a few Indian mynas, but not much else.
The research looked at street trees across London & did not include trees in public parks. They also looked at socioeconomic status, unemployment, smoking & age.
In streets with an average of 40 trees per kilometer (which is awfully low) antidepressant prescriptions were between 358 – 578 per 1,000 people.
More street trees resulted in lower prescription rates. “For every additional tree per kilometer of street, the researchers found 1.38 fewer prescriptions in the population.” See – http://bit.ly/1CdQGtx
The lesson in this is that if you want a happy community, then a really good way to start is to have a leafy streetscape. It is a failure to think that a patch of greenspace will be sufficient. It won’t.
Remember that Deakin University’s annual Australian Unity Wellbeing Index in 2006 found that Marrickville was the unhappiest suburb in the country. We don’t know if this is changing, but I don’t think this is something that should be ignored or deemed ‘past.’
Heat is another factor affecting the community here that I don’t think would be as much an issue for the London community. The streets in Marrickville municipality are hot & not just in the summer months. 2014 was the hottest year yet & even our winter had many hot days.
If you walk you will notice that there is a long space between patches of shade in many streets. Even then the shade is not much. I often see women with prams standing stationary under a small street tree obviously taking a breather from the heat.
In my opinion Marrickville Council needs to allocate significantly greater funds to the planting & care of street trees. They also need to choose more species that are actually shade-producing.
With climate change starting to have an impact, the issue whether a street is south-facing may soon be a thing of the past. Relevant once, but not with a changing climate & with Sydney predicted to have temperatures aligned with Rockhampton as it is now by the end of the century.
Heat-related deaths are also expected to soar to 17,200 deaths a year – up from the current 5,800. See- http://bit.ly/1DM40tk All these are very good reason why our urban forest needs to grow in size.