It’s difficult to live a healthy life these days. We’re busy, so we don’t get enough sleep. We don’t eat right. We don’t exercise enough, and our stress levels are too high.
What’s more, researchers have discovered, if we live in an urban environment, our risk of getting cancer is more pronounced.
As reported by the UK’s Daily Telegraph, the leafy suburbs or the peace and tranquility of country living may not be the ideal life for urbanites, but scientists have found that kind of lifestyle just might keep you alive longer.
According to researchers at Harvard University, people who live in homes surrounded by greenery tend to be 13 percent less likely to die of cancer. In addition, they found, their risk of dying from respiratory disease also falls by 34 percent, the largest study into living in green spaces and health has demonstrated.
Mortality rates overall were 12 percent less for people who had more greenery within a couple hundred yards of their homes, according to the study’s eight-year follow-up period.
Green living is healthy living
Researchers believe that living in the midst of vegetation boosts mental health and lowers depression. In addition, they believe that such surroundings provide more opportunity for people to get out more, giving them better chances to exercise and practice social engagement, both of which are known to serve as protectors against the disease.
That said, the Harvard University team said they did not expect the percentage of effectiveness to be as high as it was.
“We were surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates,” said Peter James, a research associate in the Harvard Chan School Department of Epidemiology. He added the team was even more surprised to discover evidence “that a large proportion of the benefit from high levels of vegetation” is attributable to better mental health.
He said that researchers already knew that increased vegetation helps the environment by gobbling up carbon dioxide to create oxygen and reducing wastewater loads. But he added that the new findings suggest that there is a “potential co-benefit” of boosting health that gives “planners, landscape architects, and policymakers” an “actionable tool” in which they can use to grow greener, healthier places.
‘The results are useful because they can support a growing interest in considering the value of natural environment’
The just-released nationwide study is the first of its kind that examines a link between green vegetation and its potential effect on the morality rate over a number of years. More than 100,000 women enrolled in the Nurses’ health Survey and were followed by researchers between 2000-2008. Scientists utilized satellite imagery from different seasons of the year to measure how much greenery surrounded the homes of study participants.
Analyses and findings from all previous related studies have suggested there could be a link between greener spaces and improved wellbeing. However, researchers were unable to factor the possibility that people who are generally in better states of health naturally located to greener areas. But they were able to rule out other risk factors for mortality, including age, socioeconomic condition, race, ethnicity and smoking.
Becca Lovell, a research fellow with the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the University of Exeter, told the Daily Telegraph that the study indicated that people who live close to greenery could provide themselves with lifelong health benefits.
Lovell said called the study “interesting” and said that it contributes to a growing body of existing research that has suggested living in a greener environment is associated with improvements in health conditions.
“The results are useful because they support a growing interest in government (national and local) to consider and account for the value of the natural environment in determining population health,” she said.