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Living in a green area may help you live longer

Living in a green area may help you live longer

Having access to a nice garden or living near a park may help you live longer, new research claims.

Researchers from Harvard University and Brigham and Women's Hospital monitored over 100,000 women between 2000 and 2008 in the U.S. and explored the link between higher amounts of vegetation and mortality rates.

Using satellite imagery, they tracked the extent of seasonal vegetation where the women lived. The study also took into account socioeconomic status, age, race, body mass index, physical activity, smoking, education and other health and behavioural factors. During the duration of the study, 8,604 of the women died.

According to the results, researchers found that women living in areas with the most vegetation had a 34 per cent lower rate of death from respiratory diseases and a 13 per cent lower mortality rate from cancer, compared to people who had the least amount of vegetation around their homes. Overall they had a 12 per cent lower mortality rate.

However, levels of greenness did not affect mortality related to coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke or infections.

Lead researcher Peter James added that greenery is also thought to have a significant positive effect on mental health. Findings estimated that 30 per cent of the benefit from living near vegetation came from lower levels of depression.

"We were surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates,” he said. “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.”

The academics also suggested their findings should encourage city planners to incorporate space for plants to grow when designing new urban areas.

“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,” shared James.

The study was first published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

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