donation
To request Mental Health
Services or to access Mental
Health Crisis Services Call:
1-800-375-4357

Wellness and Personal Development
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Follow Exercise Guidelines and You'll Live Longer, Study SaysBiases Mean Men Dubbed 'Brilliant' More Often Than WomenFireworks Are Bad News for Your LungsPandemic Means More Backyard Fireworks This Year -- And More DangerA Safer 4th Is One Without Backyard FireworksWhen Can Sports Fans Safely Fill Stadiums Again?AHA News: How to Stay Safe, Healthy and Cool This Summer Despite COVID-19 ThreatWhat Behaviors Will Shorten Your Life?Heat Kills More Americans Than Previously ThoughtDespite Predictions, Loneliness Not Rising for Americans Under LockdownDon't Be a 'Hot-Head': Study Suggests Head Overheating Impairs ThinkingWhy Exercise? Researchers Say It Prevents 3.9 Million Deaths a YearWorking From Home? Posture, Ergonomics Can Make It SafeWant to Travel During the Pandemic? Here's What to ConsiderHealthier Meals Could Mean Fewer Strokes, Heart AttacksWhat Difference Do Calorie Counts on Menus Make?Want Added Years? Try VolunteeringEating Before Bedtime Might Pack on the PoundsAmid Pandemic, Protest Peacefully While Staying HealthyHow to Get Better Sleep While Working at HomeIn a Pandemic-Stressed America, Protests Add to Mental StrainHealth Warning Labels Could Cut Soda SalesProtect Yourself From Sun to Prevent Skin CancerAs a Nation's Worth Grows, So Do WaistlinesBike-Sharing Gets Commuters Out of Cars: StudyBanishing Pandemic Worries for a Good Night's SleepAs Summer Starts, Sun Safety Slashes Skin Cancer RiskDuring the Pandemic, How Safe Is the Great American Summer Vacation?AHA News: A Silver Lining for Foster, Adopted Pets – and Their People – During Coronavirus PandemicEven One High-Fat Meal May Dull Your MindDon't Let the Coronavirus Pandemic Rob You of Your SleepMore Trees, Parks May Mean Longer Lives for City DwellersReckless Driving on the Rise During COVID-19 PandemicTips to Keeping Slim When You're Stuck at HomeMoney Not a Good Measure of Your Self-WorthWhich Foods Might Reduce Your Odds for Dementia?Ride-Sharing Services Tied to Rise in Car CrashesAmericans Got the Memo on Social Distancing, Poll ShowsA Consistent Bedtime Is Good for Your HeartAHA News: Eat Healthy, Move Your Body During Pandemic'Stress Eating' While Social Distancing? Here's Tips to Avoid ItStaying at Home During the Pandemic? Use Technology to Stay ConnectedIndoor Athletes Often Lacking in Vitamin DHow Many Steps Per Day to Lengthen Your Life?Can You Buy Happiness? Yes, Study Suggests, If You Spend on ExperiencesAHA News: Coronavirus News on Social Media Stressing You Out? Here's How to Handle the AnxietyDon't Abandon Healthy Eating During Coronavirus PandemicAHA News: 'Be Happy' Isn't So Simple, Especially Amid Coronavirus Worries – But It's Seriously Good for HealthHealthy Living at Home to Ward Off CoronavirusKeeping Coronavirus Anxiety at Bay
LinksBook Reviews
Related Topics

Smoking
Anger Management
Stress Reduction and Management
Weight Loss

Trees an Oasis of Mental Well-Being

HealthDay News
by By Amy Norton
HealthDay Reporter
Updated: Jul 30th 2019

new article illustration

TUESDAY, July 30, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- City dwellers who live on tree-lined streets might be happier and healthier for it, a large new study suggests.

The study, of nearly 47,000 urban residents, found that those who lived in areas shaded by tree canopy reported less psychological distress and better general health over six years.

Green grass, on the other hand, didn't cut it: People in neighborhoods with more grassy areas actually reported poorer health than those largely surrounded by concrete.

The researchers said the findings suggest there might be something particularly health-promoting about trees. Maybe people who have them nearby have more chances for walking and recreation, or enjoy a buffer against noise and traffic pollution, for example.

The bottom line: Trees seem to matter to our well-being, said Kathleen Wolf, a research social scientist at the University of Washington's College of the Environment, in Seattle.

Wolf, who was not involved in the study, said it adds to a body of research finding a link between "green space" and better health.

A U.K. study published last month is a case in point. It found that people who spent two hours a week outdoors gave higher ratings to their physical and mental health than those who preferred the great indoors.

"If you have one study showing an association," Wolf said, "it gives you a heads-up -- 'Hey, this is an interesting finding.'"

When multiple studies show the same pattern, it suggests something is really there, she added.

A strength of the new study is that it followed people over time, Wolf said, rather than measuring well-being only once.

On average, it found, city dwellers who lived near more tree canopy were less likely to develop new symptoms of psychological distress -- like nervousness, hopelessness and unexplained fatigue.

The benefit was seen among people living in areas with tree coverage of least 30% within a mile of home. Compared with residents with few nearby trees, they were about one-third less likely to report distress symptoms on a standard questionnaire.

They were also one-third less likely to downgrade ratings of their general health to "fair" or "poor."

Of course, there could be many things about living in greener areas that make people happier and healthier. But the researchers tried to account for those differences -- weighing factors like household income, education levels and marital status.

Even then, trees still mattered to mental and physical well-being.

Why would that be? Wolf pointed to various possibilities. Tree-lined streets and parks may give people more opportunities for exercise -- which, she noted, is important not only for physical well-being, but mental health, too.

There's also a theory that being out in nature offers a better sense of perspective, which makes our daily stresses seem less significant.

"Human beings tend to ruminate on the bad things that happen, rather than the good," Wolf said. Some of that mental playback may fade when you're outdoors, with things to see, smell and experience, she noted.

Living near grassy surroundings, on the other hand, was linked to higher odds of distress and poor health.

The study cannot reveal why, said Sjerp de Vries, a researcher with Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands. But, he said, unlike grass, trees can make an area more walkable.

Trees are also more obvious, de Vries said. Tall trees, especially, make their presence known whether people are outside or inside.

Plus, de Vries noted, there is an argument to be made that trees are beneficial because they release chemicals called phytoncides, which may boost human immune function.

He wrote an editorial accompanying the new study, which was published online July 26 in JAMA Network Open.

The study results were based on 46,786 adults aged 45 and older in three large Australian cities. All remained in the same neighborhood over six years, and completed the same health questionnaires at the beginning and end of the study period.

It's possible, de Vries said, that healthier people chose to live in tree-lined areas. But other studies have suggested that "green space" has particular benefits for lower-income people, he noted. And they have less choice about where to live than their wealthier counterparts.

More information

The U.S. National Park Service has more on nature's health benefits.