Washington | Women live longer in areas with more green vegetation, according to a new study which found that females with the highest levels of greenness near their homes had a 12 per cent lower death rate compared to ones with the lowest levels of vegetation near their homes.
Researchers found the biggest differences in death rates were from kidney disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. They also explored how an environment with trees, shrubs, and plants might lower mortality rates. They showed that improved mental health and social engagement are the strongest factors, while increased physical activity and reduced air pollution also contribute.
It is important to know that trees and plants provide health benefits in our communities, as well as beauty, said Linda Birnbaum from National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) in the US. The finding of reduced mortality suggests that vegetation may be important to health in a broad range of ways, said Birnbaum.
The study, conducted by scientists at Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, examined greenness around the homes of 108,630 women in the long-term Nurses’ Health Study.
Researchers mapped home locations and used high resolution satellite imagery to determine the level of vegetation within 250 metres and 1,250 metres of homes. They then followed the women from 2000 to 2008, tracking changes in vegetation and participant deaths. During the study, 8,604 deaths occurred. Scientists consistently found lower mortality rates in women as levels of trees and plants increased around their homes.
This trend was seen for separate causes of death, as well as when all causes were combined. When researchers compared women in the areas with highest greenness to women in the lowest, they found a 41 per cent lower death rate for kidney disease, 34 per cent lower death rate for respiratory disease, and 13 per cent lower death rate for cancer in the greenest areas.
Women with the highest levels of vegetation, or greenness, near their homes had a 12 percent lower death rate compared to women with the lowest levels of vegetation near their homes, researchers said.
The ability to examine vegetation in relatively fine detail around so many homes, while also considering the characteristics of the individual participants, is a major strength of this study, said Bonnie Joubert from NIEHS. The findings were published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.