While the ecological and aesthetic benefits of green spaces are intuitively obvious, scientists have just begun to understand the different impacts that greening initiatives may have on human health.
Green spaces have already been linked to lower levels of stress and anxiety, and are known to help mitigate the urban heat island effect and reduce levels of air pollution. According to new research from the European Society for Cardiology, greener spaces also make for healthier hearts.
The most recent research looked at medical data from 243,558 US Medicare beneficiaries aged 65 and older in Miami-Dade County. This information was combined with satellite imagery showing which areas had more vegetation.
Two rounds of data collection – one in 2011 and one in 2016 – were conducted, coinciding with three planting programs undertaken by Miami-Dade County. In addition, the researchers assessed actual heart health and relative risk of cardiovascular disease.
“Higher levels of greenness were associated with lower rates of heart conditions and stroke over time, both when an area maintained high greenness and when greenness increased,” explained study lead author Dr. William Aitken. He and his colleagues suspect that multiple factors may account for these observations.
“For instance, people living in greener areas may do more outdoor exercise and might feel less stressed due to being surrounded by nature. In addition, vegetation could provide some protection from air and/or noise pollution.”
Scientists are accumulating more and more evidence which confirms the compounding benefits of green spaces.
“Tree planting and greening of neighborhoods is associated with multiple benefits and offers a relatively low-cost investment to enhance health and well-being in many circumstances,” said Dr. Airken. “For the cost of one emergency room visit for a heart attack, trees could be planted in a neighborhood with 100 residents and potentially prevent ten heart diseases in this group.”
For the health and safety of our planet and our people, that’s quite the deal.
The research was presented at ESC Congress 2021.