Landscaping: Lowering the Human Mortality Rate?
As unbelievable as it may sound, having more plants and landscaping near and around your home might actually help you live longer. According to a recent study of over 100,000 women in the United States, those with the largest amount green plants near their home (plants, trees, and other vegetation) had a 12% lower death rate during the period of the study than those who had the least amount of plants.
This study, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (or NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, found that while plants may be beautiful, they also offer many health benefits. The researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston (who conducted the study) found the largest differences in the death rates from cancer, respiratory disease, and kidney disease. The researchers explored how these trees, shrubs, and plants can lower mortality rates while also improving mental health, social engagement, increasing physical activity, and lowering air pollution.
The researchers first examined the “greenness” around the homes of 108,630 women in this long-term study. Then, maps were created via high-resolution satellites to determine the vegetation levels within 250 and 1,250 meters from their homes. Taking place from 2000 to 2008, the vegetation changes and participant deaths were tracked.
Scientists consistently found that the women had lower mortality rates as the levels of plants and trees were higher around their homes. This trend was not only seen for the individual causes of death, but also when all causes were combined and totaled. When comparing the women with the highest and lowest levels of landscaping and vegetation, researchers found an astounding 41% lower death rate from kidney disease, 34% lower from respiratory, and 13% lower mortality rate from cancer in the greenest areas.
There are many explanations as to why vegetation and landscaping have such an effect on the lifespans of these women. “Green” areas offer space for social gatherings and physical activity, which improve both mental and physical health. Plants are also known to decrease stress levels and depression.