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Study Reveals that Green Environments Lengthen Lives of Women

Paper Reviewed
James, P., Hart, J.E., Banay, R.F. and Laden, F. 2016. Exposure to Greenness and Mortality in a Nationwide Prospective Cohort Study of Women. Environmental Health Perspectives 124: 1344-1352.

Introducing their intriguing study, James et al. (2016) write that there is evidence that environments possessing the most vegetative greenery might possibly "ameliorate adverse environmental exposures," such as (1-3) "air pollution, noise, and extreme heat," which may (4,5) "increase physical activity and social engagement," and ultimately lead to (6) "lower stress," all of which consequences may (7) help to increase human longevity.

In exploring this concept, the four U.S. researchers looked for a linkage between the residential greenness and length-of-life of 108,630 women listed in the U.S.-based Nurses' Health Study. And using satellite-derived Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) data pertaining to the vegetation surrounding their homes, they calculated the cumulative average time-varying seasonal greenness that surrounded each participant's address. And what did they learn by so doing?

Between 2000 and 2008, James et al. report that (1) women living in houses with yards of the highest quintile of cumulative average greenness found within a 250-m radius of each of their homes had a 12% lower rate of all-cause non-accidental mortality than women living in the lowest quintile, while further noting that (2,3) "these associations were strongest for respiratory and cancer mortality," and adding that (4) these results were also consistent with those observed within a 1,250-m radius of the women's homes.

In light of these significant findings, James et al. go on to conclude that yard-greening policies to increase vegetation may (1) provide new-and-enhanced opportunities for physical activity, (2) reduce harmful exposures, (3) increase social engagement, and (4) improve mental health," so that (5) "planting vegetation may mitigate the effects of climate change," and that (6) "evidence of an association between vegetation and lower mortality rates suggests it also might be used to improve health."

Yes, offtimes, and in nearly all walks of life, the most simple of strategies can promote the most positive of outcomes. And this appears to be one of those times. What is more, we wonder what benefit has been realized and will yet be realized in this regard by the recent greening of the Earth (see the postings under the heading Greening of the Earth in our Subject Index) that has been observed all across the globe, largely in response to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.

Posted 29 December 2016