We've all heard it before: a little fresh air does the soul good. Because, come on, who doesn't love soaking up some rays on a nice summer day? Sunshine isn't the only reason to spend a little more time in nature, however.
A new study published by Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrates that women who live in areas with more vegetation have lower mortality rates. This means that living somewhere with a lot of plants literally helps you live longer.
While we all probably knew that having a few more oxygen-emitting plants in the world would improve our health, you might not realize just how big of a factor vegetation plays in your life. This eight year-long study performed by researches with the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women's Hospital looked at over 106,000 American women and compared their risk of mortality with the level of vegetation surrounding their homes.
The researches found that women living in green areas had a 12 percent lower overall mortality rate compared to women living in areas with minimal amounts of vegetation. Unsurprisingly, deaths related to cancer and respiratory diseases were the most likely causes of mortality to women who lived in those areas with the least greenery. Women who were surrounded by nature had a 13 percent lower rate of cancer deaths and a 34 percent lower rate of respiratory-related deaths versus those women who lived in less green areas.
The women who live in places surrounded by more trees absolutely have less exposure to pollution, noise, and extreme heat. However, the study also theorizes that those women living in more nature have more opportunities for physical activity and social interaction. Their lifestyles as a whole are typically less stressful. The researchers measured levels of depression and found that nearly 30 percent of the benefit from living in a greener area had to do with more positive mental health.
"We were surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates," said Peter James, research associate in the Harvard Chan School Department of Epidemiology. "We were even more surprised to find evidence that a large proportion of the benefit from high levels of vegetation seems to be connected with improved mental health."
So... what can we take away from this? Wherever you live, try your best to find relaxing ways to enjoy nature. Whether it's yoga on the beach or a hike in the woods, some fresh air and a little time outside may boost your physical and mental health. Yay nature!
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