Women with the highest levels of vegetation around their houses had a 12 percent lower death rate. Women who live close to natural vegetation live longer, compared to women with the lowest levels of greenery near their houses, a study has found.
The findings showed 41 percent lower death rate for kidney disease, 34 percent lower death rate for respiratory disease and 13 percent lower death rate for cancer in the greenest areas.
"It is important to know that trees and plants provide health benefits to our communities, as well as beauty," said Linda Birnbaum from National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the US.
The team examined greenness around the homes of 1,08,630 women from 2000 to 2008 to explore how an environment with trees, shrubs and plants might lower mortality rates. They then mapped their home locations and used high resolution satellite imagery to determine the level of vegetation within 250 metres and 1,250 metres of homes.
"The ability to examine vegetation in relatively fine detail around so many homes, while also considering the characteristics of the individual participants, is a major strength of this study," said lead researcher Bonnie Joubert from NIEHS.
The researchers consistently found lower mortality rates in women as the level of trees and plants increased around their homes. Improved mental health and social engagement are the strongest factors, while increased physical activity and reduced air pollution also contribute, the study found.
The scientists also looked at characteristics that can otherwise contribute to mortality risk, such as age, race, ethnicity, smoking and socioeconomic status. This enabled them to be more confident that vegetation plays a role in reduced mortality, rather than these factors.