According to a new study, greener areas can lengthen women’s lives and improve their overall health. The research was conducted by researchers from Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. The research was carried out to examine the link between the levels of vegetation in residential areas and women’s lifespan. The researchers examined 108,630 women enrolled in the nurse’s health study, a nationwide research carried to explore the risks associated with chronic diseases in women, and observed 8,604 deaths between the years 2000 to 2008.
They compared the amount of vegetation near women’s residence and came to the conclusion that women living in greener areas in America were at a 12% lower risk of death. The research was conducted over seven years and the plantation levels were observed over different seasons and environmental changes using satellite images (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI)), across several US states. Researchers determined the density of plantation in an area by measuring the wavelengths of sunlight reflected by plants. Hence, greater greenery will result in more sunlight being reflected.
Greenery’s Effect On Mental Health?
The researchers explored several different causes of death for women, including heart diseases, kidney diseases, lung cancer, etc and found that women living in greener environments had 13% lower cancer deaths, 34% lower deaths caused by respiratory diseases and 41% lower deaths caused by kidney diseases.
The researchers came with the conclusion that there are several factors that are responsible for the lower death rates. Mental health, measured through depression levels, played a major role in improving women’s health and estimated to explain 30% of the benefit by women living in greener suburbs. The researchers measured depression levels of women using Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), a standard for measuring mental disorders, and found that women living in those areas were less depressed.
The research also concluded that women living in greener areas were physically more active and lead better social lives. This significant change could be attributed to exposure to reduced levels of air pollution in those areas. This improvement can be associated with calming effects of the color green, as according to earlier studies, greenery can reduce stress by releasing endorphins in an individual’s brain. The enhanced physical activity could be linked to the fact that by planting more vegetation, the oxygen levels increase and CO2 emissions are significantly reduced. This phenomenon increases blood oxygen and overall energy levels of individuals. Moreover, domestically grown vegetables are less susceptible to be exposed to pesticides and other chemicals that are likely to be found in commercially produced vegetables. Hence vegetables grown at home are overall healthier and provide more nutritional value to the consumer.
Regarding the fascinating results of the study, Peter James, a research associate at Harvard Chan’s School of Epidemiology, said, “We were surprised to see that there was a 12 percent lower rate of mortality. We know already that vegetation can help mitigate the effect of climate change. Our study suggests the potential co-benefit for health.” The researchers believe that the study would have produced similar results if men were included.
How Can We Make Our Homes Greener?
The researchers stressed that health can be significantly improved if individuals started growing their own plants and vegetables and that they didn’t have to move to a jungle to reap the benefits. These days, a lot of trees are being cut down to provide space for the growing population and there is not enough greenery to be found. Areas near parks are relatively more expensive. Hence people have started converting their rooftops into modern gardens, such as the Rockefeller Center’s rooftop gardens, which has somewhat managed to solve the space crisis. People have started growing plants indoors. Most common indoor plants include Alocasia, Aralia, China Doll, Cat Palm and English Ivy. Most of these plants don’t take too much space and plants such as English Ivy can be hanged from the ceiling which gives the home a nice vibrancy and elegance. Some of these plants could be poisonous to children and small animals, so proper research needs to be done before buying new species of plants.
Moreover, we can take help from architects or interior designers and ask them to design homes that are eco-friendly. For example, installing anti-reflective windows will allow enough sunlight to keep plants well-nourished without letting in excessive sunlight.
By following such strategies we can build a greener ecosystem that will benefit and expand lives of future generations.