We know that to live long, healthy lives, we need to drink water, get enough sleep, and eat our veggies. But apparently, we can now add living near trees to that list.
An article in the Washington Post reported that a new study published in the Science Advances journal suggests that living close to green spaces could add 2.5 years to your life. Previous studies have shown the health benefits of living near green spaces, but this study looks deeper into how these spaces affect our bodies on the cellular level.
It included 924 people in four U.S. cities, and the Post explained that researchers compared age-related biological changes in participants over a 20-year period against data on green spaces near where they live.
They then measured biological age at a molecular level by using blood DNA and analyzing changes in how genes related to the aging process work, according to Lifang Hou, a preventive medicine professor at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and the study’s principal investigator.
As reported by the Post, Hou said an important takeaway from the study is that it’s not just about what each person does for their health, but it’s also about their neighborhoods and communities.
Healthnews reported that the study found that the benefits of green spaces and biological age reduction are not equal and depend on race, sex, and socioeconomic status. This means that limited access to green spaces — like those that often happen in underserved communities — could result in less improvement in longevity.
In urban areas, green spaces provide shade, mute traffic noise, and suck planet-warming pollution out of the air. World Resources Institute said that green spaces can help make low-income neighborhoods less vulnerable to climate and health risks, and the WP reported that Peter James, an environmental epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said the study should serve as motivation for our policymakers to incorporate nature into people’s daily lives.
“Our study shows that being near green space caused some biological or molecular changes that can be detected in our blood,” Hou told the Post.
“We need to start changing our perspective on green space and really viewing it as an essential piece of infrastructure, just the same as sewer systems and garbage collection,” James added. “This is something that we require as human beings to thrive, to be healthy.”
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