Studies show that trees can improve health and well-being

Few of us would disagree that greenery, especially trees, makes urban environments more “livable”. Trees cool the air, break the monotony of concrete and asphalt, reduce crime, increase property values and provide many other benefits. But can trees actually improve your health, just by being near them?

Turns out, that may be true – trees, particularly in urban and suburban environments, are being recognized for their benefits to public health and wellbeing.

New research says the closer you live to trees, the better off you are. It is becoming increasingly clear that trees help people live longer, healthier, happier lives—to the tune of 6.8 billion in averted health costs a year.

The most incredible data comes from the spread of the emerald ash borer from 2002 to 2010, mostly in the upper east coast and Midwest states. The emerald ash borer is a beetle native to East Asia that hitched a ride to North American in packing materials in 2002. Between 2002 and 2010 the borer claimed the lives of over 100 million trees in the U.S. Infected trees died within 2 to 7 years of infestation.

Here’s the interesting part. Within a short time frame, residential streets that were once lined with mature trees were now bare. A huge study conducted at that time showed that across 15 states, the tree die-off was associated with an additional 15,000 human deaths from cardiovascular disease and an additional 6,000 deaths from lower respiratory disease. Poor air quality and stress are risk factors for both diseases, and trees can improve air quality and reduce stress.

Another medical study found that women recently diagnosed with breast cancer were better able to focus their attention if they spent two hours a week in natural environments. This was largely attributed to stress reduction from being in the trees.

If you can’t be in the trees, does it help to just look at trees? One famous study from the 1970s researched patients who had gallbladder surgery in Pennsylvania. Those whose rooms had a view of trees recovered more quickly than those looking out at another building. Now, it seems that even looking at trees can improve health!

Air pollution alone kills around 7 million people globally EACH YEAR! Can trees help this staggering number? Yes. Trees are absolutely proven to help mitigate air pollution, especially in urban environments. Because urban forests play a significant role in improving air quality, they may prove to be an effective intervention for reducing health care costs.

But that’s not all! Trees can reduce thermal heating in urban areas and they help establish green spaces where people want to be outside, promoting active and passive recreation to combat obesity and obesity related diseases. Trees truly do make us into healthier humans.

This winter, take some time for your trees. Give us a call at 541-480-4223 or contact us by email for a tree assessment, estimate, or advice.

–Mike D.