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"Greenness" Linked to Lower Mortality Rates in Women

Women living closer to high levels of green vegetation have lower mortality rates than do women living in less green areas, according to a new report. (Pixabay)
Women living closer to high levels of green vegetation have lower mortality rates than do women living in less green areas, according to a new report. (Pixabay)
April 21, 2016

CHEYENNE, Wyo. - Women living closer to high levels of green vegetation have lower mortality rates than women living in less green areas, according to new researchfunded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Bonnie Joubert Ph.D., population health branch scientific program director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, said the study found women with the highest levels of vegetation, or greenness, near their homes had a 12 percent lower death rate than women with the lowest levels of vegetation.

"It makes us naturally reflect on our own environments, both around our home and where we spend time outside of the home," she said. "So I think it's encouraging for policy makers thinking about the potential benefits of increasing greenness in urban areas."

She said researchers found that women living in the most green areas had a 41 percent lower death rate for kidney disease, a 34 percent lower rate for respiratory disease and a 13 percent lower rate for cancer deaths than women living in the least green areas.

Joubert notes that scientists were able to separate the impact of green vegetation by accounting for other factors that also contribute to higher death rates, including age, ethnicity, smoking and socioeconomic status. She adds that the research also suggests how an environment with trees, shrubs and plants might lower mortality rates.

"The downstream effects that an individual could have would be more social engagement, better mental health and then also increased physical activity and reduced air pollution," she added. "The authors note all of those things as contributing factors."

The study examined greenness around the homes of more than 100,000 women participating in a separate study using high-resolution satellite imagery, and documented changes in vegetation and more than 8,600 deaths from 2000 to 2008.

The full report can be read online here.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - WY