Human Health and Plants Research: Can Greenery Around the Home Increase Longevity?

Charles Guy

Researchers wanted to know if the amount of greenness surrounding the home had an influence on the mortality rate of women. Using the Nurses’ Health Study prospective cohort of over 108,000 women over an eight year period, 8,604 deaths occurred in the study population. The level of greenness and therefore the relative amount of vegetation within 250 meters around each home was determined using satellite imaging. After adjustment for risk factors such as age, smoking, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status, women living in the highest quintile of greenness had a 12% lower rate of all-cause nonaccidental mortality than women whose homes were found to be in the lowest quintile of greenness. Reduced mortality was strongest for respiratory, kidney disease, and cancer related deaths. Additional analyses suggested that reduced mortality was linked to differences in physical activity, atmospheric particulate matter, social involvement, and depression. The researchers concluded the association between greenness and mortality may stem from reduced depression risk and enhanced social engagement. The research suggests that living in a vegetation-rich green environment can favor the longevity of women. Greenery is good.

James P, Hart JE, Banay RF, Laden F. (2016) Exposure to greenness and mortality in a nationwide prospective cohort study of women. Environmental Health Perspectives. 124: 1344–1352.

Charlie Guy, Professor, UF Department of Environmental Horticulture

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