Excerpts from a research summary published in the Washington Post:
Living closer to nature is better for your health, new research suggests — and may even extend your life.
A study just published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that people who live in “greener” areas, with more vegetation around, have a lower risk of mortality. The health benefits are likely thanks to factors such as improved mental health, social engagement and physical activity that come with living near green spaces.
The researchers found that people living in the greenest places — that is, people who had the most vegetation within 800 feet of their homes — had a 12 percent lower rate of mortality from any non-accidental cause than people living in the least green places. ... These results were the same regardless of the participants’ income, weight or smoking status and also did not significantly change between urban and suburban locations.
In statistical analyses, though, the researchers found that participants’ mental health, social engagement, level of physical activity and exposure to air pollution likely explained how the green spaces were making a difference.
This is all in line with the ways previous research has suggested greenness can affect health. Places with more vegetation are generally thought to be less polluted, and the presence of vegetation, itself, can help keep air cleaner. And green spaces like parks can help encourage people to get outside, exercise and engage with other people — all factors that can improve overall health. The effects on mental health may be somewhat less straightforward, but nonetheless important, as this study suggested.
“We were really surprised to find that the mental health pathway explained about 30 percent of the relationship between greenness and mortality,” said ...the study’s lead author.
That last sentence is ... astounding, and a little embarrassing.
For as long as humans have been in existence, we have found solace and refreshment in the pleasure we derive from looking at beautiful environments, so much so that it would probably be impossible to quantify even the number of poems or songs that have been composed on the subject.
Have we, as humans, simply forgotten that we have the capacity to enjoy and wonder at nature’s beauties? Are we so detached from our natural world that we have forgotten this? Have we even forgotten that we used to know this, and are thus dependent on scientists to quantify what used to be elemental to our lives?
This sort of research inspires two reactions: 1) NO KIDDING! and 2) How pathetic that we need to engage in scientific research to “discover” or “quantify” our lost humanity.
This is the sort of thing that makes me despair.
Harvey, Chelsea. “Why living around nature could make you live longer.” Washington Post, April 19, 2016.