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Is it possible that living around more green spaces can improve or help your health?  It can walk in parkhelp you live longer according to a 2016 analysis by Harvard School of Public Health researchers in a study of 100,000 women.  Women living in the areas with the most greenness in an area within a tenth of a mile had a 12% lower rate of death compared to women who lived in areas with the lowest level of greenness.  Women in the highest area of greenness had a:

  • 13% lower rate for cancer mortality
  • 35% lower respiratory disease-related mortality
  • 41% lower rate for kidney disease mortality

So why do researchers think green space may improve your health?  They think it is a combination of factors which include:

  • Lower levels of depression
  • Increases social engagement
  • Higher levels of physical activity
  • Lower levels of pollution

When examining why people in green spaces might have lower levels of depression it is believed people who live in greener areas are more likely to go outside which exposes them to sunlight.  Being exposed to sunlight helps people make more Vitamin D.  Depression is associated with lower levels of Vitamin D.   Participating in social activities and being with friends can help decrease feelings of loneliness and depression.  Experiencing nature and being outside has shown to increase feelings of well-being.   Some research links images of nature with an increased positive mood.

Higher levels of physical activity helps a person be more fit and usually healthier.  Exercise is good medicine.  The women who lived in greener spaces were more physically active in this research study. flowers-113503_960_720

Trees, plants, grass and flowers all help reduce pollution.  Plants reduce the levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter which helps lower pollution.  Those women who lived near the highest amount of vegetation saw a reduced rate of death from respiratory disease by about one-third.  Plants can help clean up our air and help us breathe cleaner air. gravel-road-1031726__340

All this is good news if you live in green spaces with heavy vegetation.  Be sure to take the opportunity to get outside, walk or bike around your neighborhood, find friends or family members to walk with you, and enjoy being outdoors.

If you don’t live in an area with much vegetation check to see if you can plant some trees, plants and/or bushes.  Put some potted plants on your patio or near your front door if it is outside.  Encourage your city or town to be a “Tree City” and plant more trees.   Go visit a friend or meet a friend in the park to walk and enjoy the outside.  Try taking a vacation in areas with heavy vegetation.

Author:  Pat Brinkman, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension

Reviewer: Tammy Jones, Family and Consumer Sciences Extension Educator, Ohio State University Extension

References:

Frates, E. (2017). Time Spent in “Green Places” Linked with Longer Life in Women, Harvard Health Blog.  Available at http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/time-spent-green-places-linked-longer-life-women-2017030911152

Mann, D. (2012).  Vitamin D Deficiency Linked to Depression.  Available at http://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20120627/vitamin-d-deficiency-linked-to-depression#1

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