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Why "Keeping it Green" May Help MI Women Live Longer

New research says women living closer to high levels of green vegetation have lower mortality rates than do women living in "less green" areas. (sidewinder123/morguefile)
New research says women living closer to high levels of green vegetation have lower mortality rates than do women living in "less green" areas. (sidewinder123/morguefile)
April 26, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - Eating lots of greens has been known to improve health, but a new report indicates living near green vegetation may help some people live longer lives.

Dr. Bonnie Joubert, population health branch scientific program director for the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences which funded the research, says 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," says Joubert. "So, I think it's encouraging for policymakers thinking about the potential benefits of increasing greenness in urban areas."

She says researchers found 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 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 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," says Joubert. "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.

It documented changes in vegetation, and tracked more than 8,600 deaths, from 2000 to 2008.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI