Health Benefits of Living Near Greenery

Feb 12, 2009 by

Health Benefits of Living Near Greenery

Don’t you just love the feeling of being in amongst nature, enjoying the serenity and fresh air? I most certainly do, and, compared to the polluted and noisy cities, it really feels like a different world altogether.

And it’s not just about feelings, too. There are clear, quantifiable health benefits, as the following studies outline.

Three Studies on the Health Benefits of Living Near Greenery

by Reuben Chow

With rapid industrialization and urbanization, fewer and fewer of us live in areas of serene greenery. Yet, there has always been something very relaxing and attractive about parks and forests. And three recent studies have found that living near such areas has beneficial effects on our health and the health of our children.

More greenery narrows health gap between rich and poor

Firstly, a study jointly carried out by the University of Glasgow and University of St Andrews found that living near parks and forests provides an overall health boost, an impact which is independent of social class.

Using mortality data of 366,348 people in England from 2001 to 2005 and looking at the link between exposure to greenery and different causes of death, researchers found that the health gap between the richest and poorest groups of people was the smallest in areas with the most green spaces – it was only about half of the gap of the areas with the least greenery. Significantly, it was also found that even small green spaces in living environments made a difference to people’s risk of fatal diseases.

The use of fields and parks for walks and other physical activities helps to regulate blood pressure as well as alleviate the harmful effects of stress, said Dr Richard Mitchell, the researcher from the University of Glasgow. “Not everyone has equal access to green spaces, but when people do have access they tend to use them, regardless of what part of the social spectrum they are from. This has a direct impact on their health,” he said.

“Obviously, resources must still be ploughed into trying to narrow the inequality gap between rich and poor, and with that will come advances in the population’s general health. However, we would encourage the Government to consider carefully what their policy on green spaces is and to bear this research in mind when planning urban areas for the future,” Dr Mitchell also said.

The study team’s report, which was published in The Lancet, stated that “the implications of this study are clear – environments that promote good health might be crucial in the fight to reduce health inequalities”.

More greenery lowers asthma rates among children

Another study which was conducted at the Columbia University and published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found that, for every additional 343 trees in every square kilometer, asthma rates among children in New York aged 4 and 5 decreased by 25%.

And, according to the study team, this association remained even after factors such as pollution sources, levels of affluence and population density were accounted for. While the researchers were not sure why the link existed, they felt it could be due to the fact that the presence of more trees improves air quality, as well as encourages children to play outdoors.

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