The number of Australians living in high-rise apartments has continued to rise since 1991. People prefer to live in the city now over larger homes in the suburbs. But as land for building homes in the city becomes scarce, people are getting farther and farther away from nature. The effect of living in an urban setting has various health problems.
Children used to play outside and were exposed to large amount of bacteria. However, being exposed to various environmental conditions can change the diversity of bacteria. Living in high-rise buildings far away from nature is one of these conditions. Studies show that being close to nature brings good mental health – and people living in urban areas have more difficulty in handling stress. This can partly be due to increased contact with air pollution and heat stress, and decline in fitness because of the absence of a nearby park or garden.
The role of plants
Like plants, people carry trillions of both good and bad bacteria. The number of families of bacteria present in our body determines the diversity of microbiota. Plant growth is influenced by the diverse plant microbiome, and eating plant foods benefit humans. An important research question to ask is: do humans gain more benefits by just being in contact with plants?
Plants eliminate ozone, carbon dioxide and other volatile compounds from the air. By turning carbon dioxide to oxygen, plants drastically improve air quality. Larger amounts of oxygen in a small apartment mean the health of its occupants may improve. Aside from being pleasing to the eye, watching plants minimises stress levels.
Shinrin-yoku, or nature therapy, first developed in Japan, has shown to benefit health by reducing people’s blood pressure and improving mental health. Going on a mindful walk in a forest does the trick.
Plants have also proven to bring positive changes in the brain’s electrical activity, muscle tension and heart activity.
Plants that are beneficial to the home
Peace lily: Place this plant in the hallway to reduce toxins such as ammonia and ethyl and will stop toxins from reaching other areas in the apartment.
Aloe vera and Mother-in-law’s tongue: When placed in the bedroom will release oxygen, which boost the quality of sleep.
Gerbera daisy: Place these flowers in the laundry room to eliminate formaldehyde and benzene from the air, which are usually found in household detergents.
Devil’s lily (Golden Pothos): Place in low light and cool temperatures like an air-conditioned office or an outside garage to eliminate ozone, which is present in car exhaust fumes.
Plants outside apartment buildings
Outdoor trees and plants provide shade to buildings and streets, lowering the temperatures in concrete jungles. They also help prevent floods and nutrient dispersal. Towns with larger canopy cover are said to have higher quality of living and draw in higher property values.
Compared to indoor environments, outdoor plants and soil house more ecological communities, more diversity in microbes, and hence raises the quantity of insects, birds and fauna. Having large parks and green areas improve the mental and physical health of individuals residing in urban cities.