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New study reveals the surprising factor that impacts the mental health of city dwellers: 'Part of our everyday lives'

A 2010 study in the U.S. put the value of such health benefits at $7 billion. 

Cities without trees affect mental health

Photo Credit: iStock

There's something missing from the crowded cities that many of us call home — more trees. 

The absence of trees is affecting the mental health of many city dwellers, according to experts who are studying the impact of foliage on the human mind. 

Studies are starting to link long-term exposure to air pollution with poor mental health. By adding more leaves to urban skylines, experts in a study at Yale determined that city planners can improve cases of depression, anxiety, and other basic wellness metrics. 

Other researchers agree with the findings. 

"It's really about having trees as part of our everyday lives," Harvard assistant professor Peter James said in a report about the connection between trees and public health. James is calling for more parks and green spaces. 

While urban forests reduce air pollution by less than 1%, the estimated health benefits are great. A 2010 study in the U.S. put the value of such health benefits at $7 billion

The Arbor Day Foundation lists some other surprising benefits of city trees, including cooler temperatures and a more active population. Those conditions also contribute to better mental health.

Study after study shows just how expansive these benefits are.

In Philadelphia, more trees were linked to a reduction in gun violence, according to the report from Yale. In Baltimore, public locations with trees saw a 40% reduction in crime compared to trees on private property, the report said. 

Meanwhile, a 30-year project in Portland, Oregon, found that for every 100 trees planted, one premature death was avoided.

One downside is allergies, but the impact can be reduced by selecting specific species. 

It's also important to make sure everyone has a place under the canopy. The Yale report said places with the "highest poverty rates have 41% less tree coverage than the wealthiest communities."

These tree-based community benefits can't be achieved without equal access. It starts by adding more maples, oaks, and other timber throughout the urban landscape.

"[I]mproving air quality, reducing carbon pollution, and improving water quality benefits everyone," Jon Utech, senior director at the Office for a Healthy Environment at the Cleveland Clinic, told ArborDay.org. "[It] can be accomplished through tree planting."

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