Washington | High levels of neighbourhood greenness such as trees, grass and other vegetation are linked to significantly lower rates of diabetes, hypertension and high cholesterol, a first-of-its-kind study has found.
The findings are based on 2010 2011 health data reported for approximately 250,000 Miami-Dade Medicare beneficiaries in the US over age 65, and a measure of vegetative presence based on NASA satellite imagery.
The study was to examine block-level greenness and its relationship to health outcomes in older adults, and the first to measure the impact of greenness on specific cardio- metabolic diseases, researchers said. This study builds on our research group’s earlier analyses showing block level impacts of mixed-use and supportive building features on adults and children, said Scott Brown from University of Miami.
The results give impetus to public agencies and property owners to plant and maintain a verdant public landscape, researchers said. The findings showed that higher levels of greenness on the blocks where the study’s Medicare recipients reside, is associated with a significantly lower chronic disease risk for the residents of high greenness blocks, including a 14 per cent risk reduction for diabetes, a 13 per cent reduction for hypertension and a 10 per cent reduction for lipid disorders.
Going from a low to a high level of greenness at the block level is associated with 49 fewer chronic health conditions per 1,000 residents, which is approximately equivalent to a reduction in the biomedical ageing of the study population by three years, said Brown.
The findings illuminate the vital role of parks and greens to health and well-being, and point to the critical need for a holistic approach in planning that draws on research, researchers said. In examining the results by income level and by race, the research showed that the health benefits of greenness were proportionately stronger among all racial and ethnic groups in lower income neighbourhoods.
Researchers said this aspect of the findings suggests that incorporating more green – trees, parks and open spaces – in low income neighbourhoods could also address issues of health disparities.
Providing a green feature has been associated with safety, increased time outdoors, physical activity, and social interaction, and may potentially reduce disease burdens at the population level and enhance residents’ quality of life, said Jose Szapocznik from University of Miami.