Photo by: Pixabay user Larsen9236
Planting more plants and trees in cities—where most people live—can cool urban areas and prevent harm from heat. Spending more time surrounded by green space, like trees or other vegetation, may improve mental and physical health.
Why it matters: Rising temperatures from climate change create “heat islands” in cities—localized areas where temperatures can be 20-50 degrees warmer than their surroundings. This happens because urban landscapes tend to be covered in dark colors that absorb more heat. This excess heat can cause cardiovascular stress, heat stroke, and other major health issues, especially those with chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory conditions like asthma and COPD.
Mental Note: A 2018 study from Harvard Chan School followed more than 9,000 U.S. adolescents ages 12-18. It showed that adolescents who live in areas surrounded by green space had a lower chance of depressive symptoms than those living in dense urban areas.
Surviving a stroke: Harvard researchers found that people who’ve suffered a stroke may be 20% less likely to die after discharge from a hospital if they live in a home surrounded by lots of greenery compared to patients with low amounts of greenery near their homes.
School Attendance: Another study from Harvard showed that environmental factors in and around schools can affect attendance. It examined all 1,772 public schools in Massachusetts, and found that those that had more green space and better air quality had lower chronic absentee rates compared to other schools, regardless of social or economic factors.
The Upshot: Planting trees and other vegetation may provide beautiful landscapes but also can save lives.
I thought I made this comment but don’t see it anymore. This is probably for the future: My understanding from Jonathan is that one of the most important thing a city can do to improve health outcomes is purchase clean energy – which shuts down nearby dirty plants. I see we have an energy section – but would be nice to have the link to cities since they could focus on energy choices.
“The Association Between Natural Environments and Depressive Symptoms in Adolescents Living in the United States.”
“Green Space May Lead to Less Depressed Teens”
Green Space and Mortality Following Ischemic Stroke
“Study: Being around trees and other greenery may help teens stave off depression”
Green Space and Health
“No Tropical Paradise: Urban ‘Heat Islands’ Are Hotbeds For Health Problems”
“Impact of Particulate Matter Exposure and Surrounding ‘Greenness’ on Chronic Absenteeism in Massachusetts Public Schools”
Saving Melnea Cass Boulevard — and a neighborhood
In a letter to the editor, our Director Dr. Aaron Bernstein argues for more green space in one of the hottest spots in the city.
Preventing a transportation ‘relapse’
Harvard Chan School's Aaron Bernstein would like to see reduced traffic and air pollution—a by-product of COVID shutdowns—continue.
The 100 Reasons to Go Play Outside Right Now
The importance of going outside to human health.
Living near greenery linked with less depression in teens
Being around trees and other greenery may help teens stave off depression, according to a new study from Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Led by Carla Bezold, postdoctoral research fellow in Harvard Chan’s Department of Epidemiology, researchers analyzed data from more than 9,000 teens who began participating in 1999 in a large study…