The health benefits of trees

A growing body of research shows that regularly spending time around trees provides a wide range of human health benefits, from lowering stress to improving cognition to boosting longevity, according to experts.

In a September 8, 2021, interview on WBUR’s Radio Boston, Peter James, assistant professor in Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s Department of Environmental Health, said that trees’ effects on us “translate into long-term changes in the incidence of depression, anxiety, cognitive decline, and chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and cancer.”

In his research, James merges health data from phones—real-time surveys about wellbeing and mood—with street-view mapping data, to find out if people are being exposed to nature and if it improves health outcomes.

James encouraged people to spend more time around trees, but he said it’s also important for policymakers to maintain and plant more trees, develop more parks, and fund research about trees’ health benefits. “A lot of the work that I do shows that people are not really gaining a big benefit by going to Yosemite,” he said. “It’s really about having trees as part of our everyday lives.”

James also discussed his research in an article in the September/October 2021 issue of Outside magazine.

Listen to the Radio Boston story: Pining For the Forest: The Health And Climate Benefits Of Trees (Peter James interviewed at 13:00)