Francine Laden, Sc.D.
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
NIEHS grantees report that women live longer in areas with more green vegetation. The new findings show that planting vegetation may improve health in multiple ways.
To study the relationship between greenness and mortality, the researchers used satellite imagery to examine greenness around the homes of 108,630 women from across the nation participating in the long-term Nurses' Health Study. From 2000 to 2008, the researchers observed 8,604 deaths in study participants.
After adjusting for age and other mortality risk factors, women with the highest levels of vegetation near their homes had a 12 percent lower death rate compared to women with the lowest levels of vegetation near their homes. The biggest differences in death rates came from kidney disease, respiratory disease, and cancer. The researchers also showed that improved mental health and social engagement were the strongest factors in lowering mortality rates, while increased physical activity and reduced air pollution also contributed. When researchers compared women in the areas with highest greenness to women in the lowest, they found a 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. The majority, 84 percent, of study participants lived in urban areas, but the impact of greenness on mortality was consistent in both urban and rural regions.
Citation: James P, Hart JE, Banay RF, Laden F. 2016. Exposure to greenness and mortality in a nationwide prospective cohort study of women. Environ Health Perspect; doi:10.1289/ehp.1510363 [Online 14 April 2016].