Living near green space can help you live longer

It's no secret that being in nature is good for your health. Something as simple as a walk in the park can boost well-being and deliver benefits ranging from better sleep to lower stress. 

Now new research finds that being among the trees also boosts longevity.

City dwellers with access to leafy locales are likely to live longer than they would if they were surrounded by concrete, according to findings published in Lancet Planetary Health.

An analysis of nine longitudinal studies in seven countries involving 8.3 million people has highlighted the health benefits of living near green space.

Leading healthy urban living expert Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, a professorial fellow at Australian Catholic University and director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative at Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), said the analysis showed the significant impact increasing green areas had on reducing death rates.

Researchers identified green space by using satellite images to track how much vegetation was located within 500m of people's homes.

They discovered that access to trees, shrubs and grass meant a better lifespan. Specifically, they found that a 10 per cent increase in greenery led to about an average per cent drop in premature death.

It builds on previous research which shows green spaces in cities have a positive health effect, including less stress, improved mental health, and lower risks of cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome and premature death.

"Urban greening programs are the key to promoting public health, increasing biodiversity and mitigating the impacts of climate change, making our cities more sustainable and liveable,” Professor Nieuwenhuijsen said.

“This is important because half of the world's population lives in cities where there is often a lack of green space.”

Professor Nieuwenhuijsen said many studies only looked at one specific point in time and used different ways to measure exposure to greenness.

His research team focused on the longitudinal studies which followed the same cohort of individuals over several years.

“This is the largest and most comprehensive synthesis to date on green space and premature mortality,” David Rojas, researcher at ISGlobal and Colorado State University, said.

“The results support interventions and policies to increase green spaces as a strategy to improve public health. It also provides important information that can already be used in future Health Impact Assessment studies.”

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