When it comes to women’s health, the grass really is greener on the other side.
Women who live in areas with the greatest amount of vegetation have a 12 percent lower death rate than women who live in areas with the least amount of vegetation, according to new research from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health.
“It is important to know that trees and plants provide health benefits in our communities, as well as beauty,” said NIEHS director Linda Birnbaum. “The finding of reduced mortality suggests that vegetation may be important to health in a broad range of ways.”
Women’s lifespans are lengthened by the improved mental health and social engagement of those living in lusher areas, as well as by the increased physical activity and lower exposure to air pollution those residents experience, the research found.
And those living in areas with more vegetation are less likely to die from kidney disease, respiratory disease or cancer. In fact, researchers found that mortality rates consistently decreased as vegetation nearby increased.
Women living around more plants and trees were found to have a 41 percent lower death rate for kidney disease, a 34 percent lower death rate for respiratory disease, and a 13 percent lower death rate for cancer.
The study, which was conducted by scientists at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, analyzed the greenness around the homes of 108,630 women using home locations and high resolution satellite imagery. The scientists then tracked the changes in vegetation and the number of participant deaths (8,604 deaths) from 2000 to 2008.
In addition to greenness, the scientists also factored age, race, ethnicity, smoking and socioeconomic status, as well as other mortality risks into their study.
“The ability to examine vegetation in relatively fine detail around so many homes, while also considering the characteristics of the individual participants, is a major strength of this study,” said Bonnie Joubert, Ph.D., NIEHS scientific program director overseeing the study.