The newly launched Healthy Trees, Healthy Lives website (https://healthytreeshealthylives.org/) is an excellent source of information on the health benefits of trees. The website was developed by the Southern Group of State Foresters Urban and Community Forestry Committee and funded through a Landscape Scale Restoration grant.
The Health Benefits section of the website divides 14 benefits into 4 categories: physical (skin, heart, lungs, pregnancies/newborns, comfort/heat reduction, nutrition, fitness), mental (peace of mind, vitality, brain), healing (fighting power, healing, health), and financial (healthcare savings). Each benefit is described in a sentence or two, and links to published research papers on each benefit are included.
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As the hilarious, award-winning Nature RX video series points out, spending time in nature is a potent “drug” for alleviating the day-to-day stress we all face. It is also a powerful way to combat anxiety, depression, and mental illnesses such as schizophrenia. The average American is sorely in need of the stress-relieving boost provided by trees. Eighty percent of American adults are afflicted by stress; forty million are affected by anxiety disorders, and nearly sixteen million experience major depression each year.
In recent years, the medical community has been increasingly recognizing the importance of trees to mental health. A growing number of scientists have been studying and documenting the health benefits of trees. For example, one study found that a 25% increase in neighborhood tree canopy was associated with a 1-point decrease on a 5-point scale for depression, anxiety and stress. Another study analyzed MRI scans of the brains of urban residents who live close to a forest. These residents were found to have an amygdala structure that is associated with a greater ability to cope with stress. (Source)
Continue reading “Urban forests support mental health”
By Robert Allard, Urban and Community Forestry Coordinator, Rhode Island DEM
This year, as families all over the country spend more time at home, we have been given the opportunity to appreciate the fresh air that we can enjoy on our own back porches and front stoops more than ever. Trees are a significant factor contributing to the quality of the air we breathe. Recent research shows that even relatively small trees bring benefits to their neighborhoods. Just a single tree has the potential to filter up to one third of fine particulates such as dust, dirt, soot, and smoke within 300 yards, and can reduce particulate matter inside homes by as much as 60%.
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Thanks to the efforts of researchers over the past few decades, we have a solid understanding of the ecological benefits of urban forests, such as reduced greenhouse gases, decreased stormwater runoff, and lessening of the urban heat island effect. In contrast, knowledge of the human health benefits of urban forests is still developing. Existing reviews of health benefits have focused more broadly on nature, green space, and greenness rather than concentrating specifically on urban trees.
To address this gap, a team of scientists reviewed the existing quantitative research on the relationships between urban trees and human health. Their findings were published last month in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health in the article Urban Trees and Human Health: A Scoping Review.
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By Kim Ballard, Outreach Coordinator, Project Canopy, Maine Forest Service
Credit: Kim Ballard
2020 has been quite the year already – from extreme weather to the pandemic to civil unrest, we could all use a break from stress and anxiety. As the days are now at their longest, and lots of sun is in the forecast, it is the PERFECT time to step outside and get some much deserved fresh air and exercise. Parks are open and trees are masters at lowering your heart rate, your blood pressure and cortisol (a stress hormone) levels in your bloodstream. Tree-lined paths are cooler than the asphalt sidewalk, contain less air pollution than shared bike lanes and likely even have less crime than neighborhoods with no tree canopy. And if you are anything like me, a quarantine-enhanced waistline could benefit from some exercise provided by a brisk walk outdoors. Any way you look at it, trees are really good for us. And some good news would be really welcome right now.
Continue reading “Trees bring good news for summer!”
By Patricia Lindquist, DNR urban forestry communications specialist, Madison, Patricia.Lindquist@wisconsin.gov, 608-843-6248
“What is it about this place?” I wondered. “Why does this city feel so harsh, so disheartening?”
Two hours earlier I had stepped off a train in Patna, India, and I’d been stuck in a massive traffic jam ever since. Honking cars, motorcycles, buses, bicycles, rickshaws, and livestock hemmed me in, but after nearly two months in India, this was nothing new.
Rup, my husband at the time (we are now divorced) is from Calcutta, and I’d grown to love his hometown. Despite the massive cultural differences and sheer size of the city (population: 14 million), I’d warmed up to the place immediately. Calcutta felt welcoming from the moment I arrived; Patna did not. After only two hours in Patna, my nerves were frazzled, I had a headache, and I just wanted to escape.
Continue reading “Reflections from my travels in India: the health benefits of trees”
By Olivia Witthun, DNR regional urban forestry coordinator, Plymouth, Olivia.Witthun@wisconsin.gov, 414-750-8744
Are you going stir-crazy stuck inside your house or apartment? Take a visit to the forest outside your door! Step outside to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the trees and nature around you. It’s good for your mind, body and soul. Research shows exposure to nature reduces depression, anxiety and stress! Plus, we all know physical activity keeps your body healthy and boosts your mood.
Eighty percent of American adults are afflicted by stress. Forty million are affected by anxiety disorders, and nearly sixteen million experience major depression each year. If you live in the city, those numbers are even higher. Urban dwellers have a 20% higher risk for developing anxiety disorders, 40% for mood disorders and double for schizophrenia. Stress has become a constant in people’s everyday lives, and the COVID-19 just adds even more. The cumulative effects of chronic stress can have serious health consequences over time, including: depression, anxiety, heart disease, high blood pressure, chronic pain and type 2 diabetes.
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Looking for some hard numbers on how urban trees affect health conditions such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and ADHD?
Click on the links below to read the original research studies:
• An increase of 888 street trees per square mile is associated with a 29% lower rate of childhood asthma. Children Living in Areas with More Street Trees Have Lower Prevalence of Asthma, 2008.
• Loss of trees to the emerald ash borer is associated with an additional 15,080 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6113 deaths from lower respiratory disease during the study period (1990- 2007). The Relationship Between Trees and Human Health: Evidence from the Spread of the Emerald Ash Borer, 2013.
Continue reading “From asthma to ADHD: statistics on the health benefits of trees”
Now more than ever, trees and forests are a vital component of healthy, livable, and sustainable communities, in the U.S. and around the globe. Along with its partners such as the Wisconsin DNR, the Arbor Day Foundation is seeking ways to link together those that plant and tend urban trees and forests for the benefit of humankind.
In 2019, the Foundation launched three new recognition programs to appeal to three different audiences, three different owners and managers of urban greenspace:
Continue reading “Arbor Day Foundation launches three new recognition programs”
Vibrant cities cultivate thriving urban forests that boost public health, safety, sustainability and economic growth. A city’s green infrastructure — trees, vegetation and water — is just as important as its roads, pipes and power lines. Continue reading “Vibrant Cities Lab”