Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Your Neighborhood Trees Are Good For You

Green Space

My View: Our sixth-floor apartment gives us an excellent view of a public park, G. Ross Lord Park, which is behind our building; this is one of the reasons that we decided to move here. Our street and the ones adjacent to it are all tree-lined, making for pleasant and healthier walks.
Photo Credit: ©Perry J. Greenbaum, 2015

A paper in the science journal Nature says that living in a tree-lined neighborhood is good for your health; the paper, which used the city of Toronto for its case study, says that adding 10 trees to a city block makes residents feel wealthier, healthier and, even, younger.

In “Neighborhood greenspace and health in a large urban center” (July 9, 2015), Omid Kardan, the paper’s lead author, from the University of Chicago’s department of psychology, writes:
Studies have shown that natural environments can enhance health and here we build upon that work by examining the associations between comprehensive greenspace metrics and health. We focused on a large urban population center (Toronto, Canada) and related the two domains by combining high-resolution satellite imagery and individual tree data from Toronto with questionnaire-based self-reports of general health perception, cardio-metabolic conditions and mental illnesses from the Ontario Health Study.
Results from multiple regressions and multivariate canonical correlation analyses suggest that people who live in neighborhoods with a higher density of trees on their streets report significantly higher health perception and significantly less cardio-metabolic conditions (controlling for socio-economic and demographic factors).
We find that having 10 more trees in a city block, on average, improves health perception in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $10,000 higher median income or being 7 years younger. We also find that having 11 more trees in a city block, on average, decreases cardio-metabolic conditions in ways comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being 1.4 years younger.
I think that this study confirms what many of us have intuitively known, that living in neighborhoods with many trees, including have a park nearby, makes individuals not only feel better, but also be better.  I currently reside in Toronto, where this study was performed; and I currently live on a tree-lined street and in close proximity to a large expanse of green pace, G. Ross Lord Park, which has an area of 137 hectares (or 338 acres). Toronto’s largest public park is High Park, which has an area of 161 hectares (or 398 acres); we have been to it only once, but plan to visit it more often.

By comparison, Mont-Royal Park in Montreal has an area of 280 hectares (or 692 acres); and Central Park in NYC, has an area of  341 hectares (or 843 acres)—both were designed by Frederick Law Olmsted [1822–1903], landscape architect, journalist and social critic; many consider Olmstead the “Father of American Landscape Architecture.” We can thank individuals like Olmstead, who have done much to preserve nature for the benefit or urban dwellers. Parks do make a difference in the lives of its residents. If urban planners want to improve the health of their citizens, and reduce the costs of healthcare, this study is instructive: plant more trees.

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For more, go to [Nature]

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