Trees Soothe The Spirit And Benefit Health
A new study from Australia offers yet another take on the advantages of living in or near natural surroundings. It found that when trees covered 30 percent or more of city neighborhoods, residents within that area were 31 percent less likely to develop psychological problems and 33 percent less likely to rate their general health as fair to poor compared to people who live in areas with fewer trees. For six years, the researchers, from the University of Wollongong, followed 46,786 adults age 45 and older living in three large Australian cities. They looked at the participants’ general health in relation to the types of green space available within one mile of each one’s home. The study also considered the mental health effects of living in grassy areas and found no benefits. In fact, it showed that the health of people who lived in more grassy areas was even worse than it was among those whose neighborhoods were mostly surrounded by concrete. The researchers concluded that it may be more beneficial to protect and restore urban trees rather than other types of green surroundings in order to promote community mental health.
My take? These are interesting findings, and on balance confirm much of what we’ve learned in recent years about the health benefits of spending time in nature. We know from earlier studies that Japan’s forest therapy – which includes spending time among trees in natural settings – can lower blood cholesterol and reduce rates of diabetes, coronary heart disease, stroke, asthma and death from heart disease. It also seems to help people sleep better. Based on the new findings from Australia, simply living in an area with many nearby trees appears to offer similar types of benefits.
Thomas Astell-Burt et al, “Association of Urban Green Space With Mental Health and General Health Among Adults in Australia,” JAMA Network Open, July 26, 2019, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2019.8209
More from this week’s bulletin:
- Blueberries For Healthy Aging
- Smartphone Use Could Make You Fat
- Delicious New Appetizer To Try: Fava Bean Bruschetta