Healthspan Editorial Team June 07, 2016

It may sound like an odd thing to look into, but researchers at Harvard University have been exploring the link between vegetation and mortality rates.

People seeking out the countryside for a better work life balance including factors such as less time on public transport and more time spent with family is a common occurrence. But it just so turns out there is actual scientific truth behind the popular countryside dream. Living amongst vegetation really does have a positive impact on your health.

Research from studies at Harvard University found that people with regular access to a garden, park or the countryside, are more likely to live longer than those who live in cities(i).

Published in the journal ‘Environmental Health Perspectives’, the study monitored the well-being of more than 100,000 people living in various regions. They found that those who lived in the greenest areas had a 34 per cent lower risk of suffering respiratory disease-related mortality, while those who lived in cities had a 12 per cent higher mortality rate.

Just to clarify what we mean by ‘respiratory diseases’, these range from the minor common cold to much more serious problems including pneumonia and certain types of asthma.

Research associate Dr Peter James was very surprised by the conclusions come to as a result of this research:-

"We were surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and mortality rates. We were even more surprised to find evidence that a large proportion of the benefit from high levels of vegetation seems to be connected with improved mental health.”

As well as mortality rates, the study revealed that closeness to green spaces had a positive effect on mental health and well-being. It is thought that the opportunity to meet others and take part in exercise and other outdoor activities reduced depression and feelings of isolation amongst participants.

Exercise is well known to be a good way of relieving symptoms of stress as well as many mental health related issues. Even the NHS says ‘If exercise were a pill, it would be one of the most cost-effective drugs ever invented.’(ii)

Hopefully this nugget of information helps to encourage every one of you to spend more time outside than you already are. Even if your current landscape is city based, try to make an effort to get as much fresh air as possible, be it at a local park or simply by walking to work instead of taking the train.

References

(i)www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26185745

(ii)http://www.nhs.uk/LiveWell/Fitness/Pages/Fitnesshome.aspx

Nothing beats a healthy, balanced diet to provide all the nutrients we need. But when this isn’t possible supplements can help. This article isn’t intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying supplements or herbal medicines.

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