Monday, June 6, 2016

Having access to green places 'helps people live longer'

Having access to a garden, living near a park or within reach of the countryside helps people live longer, suggests a new study. 

Conducted by Harvard University, the research explored the link between higher amounts of vegetation and mortality rates. 

Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, it studied the well-being of 108,630 women and adds further weight to the suggestion urban living takes a greater physical toll.

Specifically, researchers found those who live in the urban jungle had a 12 per cent higher death rate than those with access to green spaces. In addition, they also had higher chances of developing cancer or respiratory illnesses.

Those in the greenest areas had a 34 per cent lower rate of respiratory disease-related mortality and a 13 per cent lower rate of cancer mortality.

The increased opportunity to get out and be active, along with breathing in less air pollution or suffering noise pollution were factors in reducing death rates. 

Green spaces also reduced depression and boosted mental well-being by making it easier for isolated people to meet others, exercise and generally get away from it all.

Research associate Dr Peter James said: 'We were surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates.

'We were even more surprised to find evidence that a large proportion of the benefit from high levels of vegetation seems to be connected with improved mental health.'

While small localised studies had suggested exposure to vegetation was linked to lower death rates the study was the first to take a nationwide look at the link between greenness and mortality over a period of several years. 

Dr James added: 'We know that planting vegetation can help the environment by reducing wastewater loads, sequestering carbon, and mitigating the effects of climate change.

'Our new findings suggest a potential co-benefit - improving health - that presents planners, landscape architects, and policy makers with an actionable tool to grow healthier places.'

Also read: 10 Secrets from a Shaolin Monk on how to stay young

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