Faculty of Medicine

Living Near Green Space May Be Beneficial Against PMS Symptoms

A study of more than 1,000 women in Norway and Sweden examines, for the first time, the positive impact of green space on psychological and physical symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

Woman walking in park

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Women living in neighbourhoods with more green space across their lifespan are less likely to experience symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) than women living in less-green neighbourhoods, according to a new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health a and the University of Bergen.

The new study published in Environment International, set out to determine whether living near urban green space could have a beneficial effect against PMS symptoms and whether this association was mediated by body mass index (BMI), air pollution or physical activity.

Fewer symptoms

The study used data collected from more than 1,000 women between 18 and 49 years of age from the cities of Bergen, Gothenburg, Umeå and Uppsala (Sweden) participating in the European RHINESSA cohort. The women completed a questionnaire on lifestyle factors, physical activity and reproductive health, indicating whether they experienced any of eight common symptoms of PMS: irritability, anxiety, tearfulness or increased sensitivity, depression, difficulty sleeping, abdominal pain, breast tenderness or abdominal bloating, and headaches. The study used the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) as a proxy for green space in the vicinity of the participants’ homes. BMI was also analysed and residential exposure to air pollution..

The study found that women living in neighbourhoods with more green space had fewer symptoms of PMS and were less likely to experience four of the eight symptoms investigated: anxiety, depression, difficulty sleeping, and breast tenderness or abdominal bloating.

"Contact with nature helps to reduce stress"

"Three of the four symptoms that improved with exposure to green space were psychological, which is consistent with what we already knew: Contact with nature helps to reduce stress and improve mental health," explained lead author Kai Triebner, a researcher at the Department of Clinical Medicine, University of Bergen.

"Stress can worsen PMS symptoms and increase levels of the hormone cortisol, which, in turn, could be associated with an increased release of progesterone, which has been linked to the occurrence of PMS symptoms," he added.

Previous research has suggested that the benefits of natural spaces are associated with increased physical activity and decreased exposure to air pollution, but this new study did not find a mediatory role for either of these factors.