Trees in cities reduce the risk of premature death

Trees in cities reduce the risk of premature death

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Longer life in greener cities

Various scientific studies suggest that green spaces in cities have a positive health effect. A new study now shows that an increase in green areas in the vicinity of residential buildings is associated with a reduction in premature mortality.

A new study has shown that urban green spaces can prevent premature deaths.
According to the researchers, their research provides robust evidence that can help policymakers assess the impact of increasing green spaces in cities.

Data from more than eight million people

The study was carried out by scientists from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in collaboration with researchers from Colorado State University and the World Health Organization (WHO).

As the institute said, the meta-analysis provides strong evidence of the impact of increasing green space on mortality. The analysis included nine studies involving a total of more than eight million people in seven countries.

The study results were published in the specialist journal "The Lancet Planetary Health".

Half of the world's population lives in cities

Half of the world's population lives in cities, where green spaces are often lacking. Many studies suggest that urban green spaces have a positive health effect, including less stress, improved mental health, and less risk of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, and premature death.

However, many of these scientific studies only look at a specific point in time and use different methods. For this reason, the research team decided to summarize the available data and focus on long-term studies - studies that followed the same cohort of people over several years.

They identified nine cohort studies worldwide with a total of over eight million people from seven different countries (Canada, USA, Spain, Italy, Australia, Switzerland and China).

The researchers used the NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index), which - based on satellite images - determines the density of green on a piece of land. They used it to determine how much vegetation, including trees, grass, and shrubs, was within 500 meters of people's houses.

All premature deaths caused by health problems such as heart or respiratory diseases were considered.

Reduction of premature mortality

The researchers found that a 10 percent increase in green led to an average four percent decrease in premature mortality.

While the study did not investigate specific causes, ISGlobal's Mark Nieuwenhuijsen said, according to a Thomson Reuters Foundation statement, access to vegetation promotes mental health, reduces stress, reduces pollution, and promotes physical activity.

"This is the largest and most comprehensive summary of green spaces and premature mortality to date," said Dr. David Rojas, researcher at ISGlobal and Colorado State University and lead author of the study.

Greening cities

"We have to enlarge the green spaces in many cities so that people can actually lead healthy lives," Nieuwenhuijsen told the Thomson Reuters Foundation over the phone.

According to him, there would be between 20 and 30 percent green spaces in a “beautiful green city”.

"More green spaces are better for health," says Nieuwenhuijsen. "People actually live longer when there is more green space," explained the scientist.

"Urban greening programs are not only a key to promoting public health, they also increase biodiversity and mitigate the effects of climate change, making our cities more sustainable and livable," concludes Mark Nieuwenhuijsen. (ad)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the requirements of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Video: Trees Mean Life or Death for Some People. The One Tree Planted Show (January 2023).