How healthy is it for you when you live near trees or there are a few outside your house or block, if you are lucky? Can trees really improve your physical and mental health? There are numerous studies which confirm that living near trees or forests is almost certainly the best medicine.
Did you know that all the trees in the USA actually reduced air pollution by 17.4 million tonnes in just one year? They did this because the leaves absorb a lot of the air pollutants that can cause respiratory diseases in humans. Let’s plant more trees and protect the ones we have. The more trees the better!
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.” – Chinese Proverb
The USDA Forest Services confirmed the health benefits by a doing a lot of interesting and much needed research on this. In spite of the fact that this cleaning up of the air took place in rural areas, the health benefits were felt over the whole nation. The USDA estimated that death from poor air quality was reduced by 850 and that cases of severe respiratory were reduced by 670,000.
India has decided to tackle their air pollution by planning to plant 2 billion trees along the nation’s highways. Not only will that help to improve the awful air quality and benefit the health of its citizens but will also give employment to 300,000 young people. Way to go.
Let me tell you about a beetle which kills off ash trees. It is called the emerald ash borer whose larvae feed on the interior bark of the ash trees resulting in a blockage of vital water and nutrients which causes the trees’ death. Millions and millions of ash trees have been killed by this pest across an enormous number of US states. Dr. Geoffrey Donovan and his team from the Pacific Northwest Research Station showed that in the areas which had lost the most number of ash trees, there was a higher death rate from heart and respiratory illnesses.
“Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people’s health. And if that’s true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does.”- Geoffrey Donovan
If you have someone who is recovering from an illness or operation, try to make sure they get the room with a view of a tree, if there is one! Patients at a Pennsylvania hospital who were recovering from gall bladder operations recovered faster when their rooms had a view of trees than those who were just looking out at a building. The research by Dr. Roger Ulrich covered the years from 1972-1981. In general, it was found that those looking at the brick wall needed more painkillers, more encouragement and they usually took a day longer to recover than those who were lucky enough to have a room with a tree view.
Researchers at the University of Wisconsin decided to see if trees near people’s homes were having any beneficial effect on their mental health. They wanted to compare them with those living around more concrete. First, they surveyed the health of over 2,500 residents in Wisconsin and then gathered satellite images to show how many trees and vegetation were in their areas.
They found that those living near trees were suffering from less anxiety, stress and depression than those who lived in areas with a tree canopy of less than 10%. The interesting thing is that these results were consistent and were not affected by race, income level, or education. They noted that a poorer person living near a logging road was happier than wealthier residents on a treeless block in a town or city
“Alone with myself
The trees bend to caress me
The shade hugs my heart.” – Candy Polgar
Researchers in Toronto found that the more trees on the block, the less likely people would end up being obese or have diabetes. They are also likely to live 7 years longer. All this data is correlational, researchers say but trees in the neighborhood can encourage people to go out and take more exercise. Just 10 extra trees on a city block can make a difference.
“Suburbia is where the developer bulldozes out the trees, then names the streets after them. – Bill VaughnAdvertising
Many health experts are concerned that lack of sleep is leading to obesity, poor health and even divorce. Prof. Diana Grigsby-Toussaint from the University of Illinois has led a research study on trees and health. Data from 250,000 Americans was used. It was found that those who lived near green areas were sleeping better, especially if they were over 65 years of age.
“Across the entire sample, individuals reporting 21 to 29 days of insufficient sleep consistently had lower access to green space and natural amenities compared to those reporting less than one week.” – Prof. Grigsby-Toussaint
Did you know that when you plant a tree near your property or in your backyard, you are likely to increase its value by 15%? The benefits for the environment may not be quantifiable but they include reducing air pollution and cutting down energy bills by protection from cold winds in winter and increased shade in summer. You can enjoy many health benefits and give songbirds a home!
“The sound of birds stops the noise in my mind.” – Carly Simon
Featured photo credit: Picket fence and yellow trees/ joiseyshowaa via flickr.com
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