Nearby green­ery may help Cana­di­ans live longer, new study sug­gests

Kingston Whig-Standard - - NATIONAL - KEVIN BISSETT The Lancet Plan­e­tary Health.

FREDERICTON — A new study sug­gests hav­ing daily ex­po­sure to trees and other green­ery can ex­tend your life.

Dan Crouse of the Uni­ver­sity of New Brunswick, along with other re­searchers across Canada and the United States, stud­ied 1.3 mil­lion Cana­di­ans in 30 cities over an 11-year pe­riod.

“We found that those who have more trees and veg­e­ta­tion around where they lived had an eight to 12 per cent re­duced risk of dy­ing com­pared to those who didn’t,” Crouse said Wed­nes­day.

The study used data from the 2001 long-form cen­sus and com­pared it to Cana­dian mor­tal­ity data base for the next 11 years.

Re­searchers took into ac­count the amount of trees, plants, shrubs and other veg­e­ta­tion within 250 me­tres of an in­di­vid­ual’s home and cre­ated es­ti­mates of daily green­ness ex­po­sure, he said.

They also used com­mu­nity data such as so­cioe­co­nomic makeup and en­vi­ron­men­tal char­ac­ter­is­tics like air pol­lu­tion and pop­u­la­tion den­sity.

“Hold­ing all that con­stant, if you live in a greener area, com­pared to a less greener area, there’s about a 10-per-cent re­duced risk of dy­ing,” he said.

Crouse said he had heard anec­do­tal sto­ries from peo­ple who said their stress level was re­duced after spend­ing time with na­ture, but he was sur­prised at the im­pact that green space can have.

Re­searchers found the pro­tec­tive ef­fects of ex­po­sure to green space weren’t the same for ev­ery­one, how­ever.

“One thing that was kind of strik­ing is that we found that those who were in the high­est in­come bracket and those who had the high­est lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion were ben­e­fit­ing more from the ex­po­sure to green­ness,” he said.

“If you take two peo­ple and ev­ery­thing else is more or less the same ... their age, sex and city they live in and they both have the same amount of green­ness around where they live, some­one who is more af­flu­ent is get­ting a big boost to their risk of dy­ing whereas peo­ple in the low­est in­come group were get­ting al­most no ben­e­fit at all.”

He said lower in­come peo­ple may have less time to spend around their prop­er­ties, or live in an apart­ment with­out good views.

Hav­ing green space around your home has greater ben­e­fit than weekly trips to the park, he said, call­ing it an im­por­tant mes­sage for city plan­ners.

“Parks are im­por­tant but I think this shows that it’s just as im­por­tant to have trees on me­di­ans and along streets and side­walks where peo­ple are go­ing to have con­tact on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” he said.

The study only mea­sured rates of mor­tal­ity and didn’t es­ti­mate how much longer some­one might live with reg­u­lar ex­po­sure to green spa­ces.

The full find­ings of the study are pub­lished in this month’s is­sue of

Crouse said he’d like to do a sim­i­lar study on the ben­e­fit of liv­ing close to oceans, rivers and lakes.

“Wa­ter is com­pletely dif­fer­ent from green space, but liv­ing on the wa­ter can be very re­lax­ing and stress re­duc­ing,” he said.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILES

A new study sug­gests hav­ing daily ex­po­sure to trees and other green­ery can ex­tend your life.

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