Time spent in “green” places linked with longer life in women – Harvard Health

Want more happiness? Try this
Why are mRNA vaccines so exciting?
Magnets, sound, and batteries: Choosing safe toys
5 numbers linked to ideal heart health
How can mindfulness practices help with migraine?
Navigating a chronic illness during the holidays
Gift giving for family or friends in assisted living
Saturated fat and low-carb diets: Still more to learn?
Tinnitus: Ringing or humming in your ears? Sound therapy is one option
Naps: Make the most of them and know when to stop them
Harvard Health Blog
I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.
– John Burroughs
Can we make humans healthier by growing healthier places? A 2016 analysis found that women living in areas with higher levels of green vegetation had lower rates of mortality. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health conducted a nationwide study of approximately 100,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study. Those women that had homes in areas with the highest level of greenness in the surrounding 250 meters (roughly 820 feet, or a little over 1/10 of a mile) had a 12% lower rate of death compared to the women whose homes had the lowest level of greenness. Specifically, there was a 13% lower rate for cancer mortality, 35% lower respiratory disease-related mortality, and 41% lower rate for kidney disease mortality in the women living in the areas with the highest levels of green vegetation.
When trying to figure out just how the greenness was protecting women against death, researchers found a combination of factors that came into play. These included lower levels of depression, increased social engagement, higher levels of physical activity, and lower levels of pollution. There are probably many reasons why being in green spaces might decrease depression. Perhaps people who live in greener areas are more likely to go outside. Exposure to sunlight helps people to make vitamin D, and low levels of vitamin D are associated with depression. Spending time with friends and participating in social activities were also associated with greener areas, and these things can decrease feelings of loneliness and depression. Being outside and experiencing nature has been known to increase feelings of well-being. In fact, some research suggests that even images of nature can lead to increased positive mood.
Exercise is medicine, and the more physically active a person is, the more fit they will be and the healthier they will be. Green spaces invite people to enjoy the outdoors and encourage people to walk, bicycle, or jog for physical activity. When the space around a home is green and full of vegetation, there are likely paths or trails that are in safe and beautiful places. In this study, those women that lived in greener spaces were more physically active.
Living among trees, plants, grass, and flowers provides an environment with less pollution than one with low levels of vegetation. The plants can reduce levels of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, which lowers the level of pollution. In this study, death from respiratory disease was reduced by about one third in those women who lived in the homes with the highest amount of vegetation. Breathing clean air matters, and plants help to clean the air.
If you live in an area with heavy vegetation, this is good news for you. Take the opportunity to improve your health. Get outside and breathe the clean air, walk around the neighborhood, find some friends to walk with you, and enjoy the great, green outdoors. If you do not live in an area with a lot of greenery around you, consider planting some trees, plants, or shrubs. If you live in a highly urban area, you can get involved with local policy to work to encourage your community to increase green spaces. Spend time with friends who live in areas with lots of trees and greenery, consciously seek out green areas as often as you can, and consider vacationing in areas with lots of vegetation.
And for those of us still in the throes of winter… spring isn’t all that far away.
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
Green place uplift the mood and spending 10 minutes in nature is most beneficial.
we need to grow more trees to save our earth.
Such a beautiful article that inspire people for batter and healthy life. We have to do plantation for increase greenery around us its also beneficial for both environment and us.
Congratulations and thanks to the researcher. Wonderful message to the public for better and healthier living. Authorities should be given message to adopt the policies to build green places and plantation of trees.
Thank you.
In my work I have come across the New York Restoration Project, something actually created and supported by actress/singer Bette Midler, and admire the organization’s work on this very scenario. They create green spaces in blighted areas of New York City, and they are studying its effects. Learn more here: https://www.nyrp.org/
It seems that the socioeconomic status of the subjects could confound the results. That is, wealthier people may tend to live in greener areas as opposed to less advantaged people, who might live in urban, less green areas. And since socioeconomic status also correlates with longevity, the effect seen could be a result of that, not green places. Was that controlled for in this study? Thanks for an intriguing article.
Great point.
Per the authors, “models were adjusted for mortality risk factors (age, race/ethnicity, smoking, and individual- and area-level socioeconomic status.”
While correlation is not causation….Healthy is as healthy does. Parks and plazas are vital in their different roles to maintain the health and sanity of urban dwellers. Imagine Manhattan without Central Park: Bedlam with a score of Caucaphony.
This is why we should create and maintain parks.
Especially landscape parks, deciduous forest preserves, public gardens, green and open space ofall kinds.
If people are fortunate enough to live near an Olmsted heritage park they should be vigilant in its preservation.
For example, learn more about preserving and enhancing Seattle’s unique landscape parks at: protectvolunteerpark.org.
I am very greatful for this information. I agree 100%. I work with peoples health every day (pain clinic) and I will use this for inform them !

bengt åke kinnander
Wonderful article!! this confirms why God is the creator; He spent five days creating an environment suitable for man before he created him as the Bible reads in Genesis 1 and 2.
Let us make effort of saving the environment we were created in and for and practice the dominion given to us in managing our environment
So true. In fact, we only had one job before the fall. Tend the garden.
I would find it interesting to compare women in urban areas adjacent to parks (such a Branch Brook Park in Newark NJ) with women in urban areas not near parks.
‘Exercise is medicine.’.

Not for people with ME/CFS/SEID, for whom, according to the IOM Report, ‘exertion of any type, physical, cognitive or emotional, may adversely affect many organ systems.

For these parients, exercise is toxic.

Rest from the inception gives the most favourable prognosis.
Sounds very reasonable. Are there similar studies regarding green effects on men?

I retired 8 months ago from a congested urban environment to a small rural town in wooded/farming area. The lowered blood pressure, increased sleep, and generally positive mood have been wonderful.
Many years ago during a terrible chronic illness, I found peace in walking in the French Alps where I lived – climbing daily and pushing through the pain, with my dogs and cats tagging along. Nature definitely helped me through my battle and I won that battle despite the very poor prognosis.
Wow, knew this with out the research, now know since a horrible fire, why my life has been so impacted.

Now have proof for my family as to why my gardens have been so incredibly important for me.

Have now shared this with my professional health community.
Did the study control for income or wealth? Size of town?
Great question.

Per the study authors, “models were adjusted for mortality risk factors (age, race/ethnicity, smoking, and individual- and area-level socioeconomic status.”
Dr Elizabeth Frates,

Your beautiful article reminds me to tap today into the deep source of nature’s positive energy. Friends, greener spaces and well being. Thank you so much!
Thank you. Brazil has so many beautiful green spaces.
Wonderful! Parents, educators, managers, politicians and health professionals are responsible for creating a culture of contact with nature. A green life should begin with a change of mentality and start for an effective change of behavior. Lifestyle medicine has been showing the many benefits of a healthier lifestyle.
Congratulations Dra Frates.
Commenting has been closed for this post.
Mind & Mood
Mind & Mood
Mind & Mood
Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!
© 2021 by The President and Fellows of Harvard College
Do not sell my personal information | Privacy Policy
Thanks for visiting. Don’t miss your FREE gift.
The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School
Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.
Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School
Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss…from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.
BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness
Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.
Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.


Want more happiness? Try thisWhy are mRNA vaccines so exciting?Magnets, sound, and batteries: Choosing safe toys5 numbers linked to ideal heart healthHow can mindfulness practices help with migraine?Navigating a chronic illness during the holidaysGift giving for family or friends in assisted livingSaturated fat and low-carb diets: Still more to learn?Tinnitus: Ringing or humming in your…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *