Green spaces can prevent premature death

Green spaces in urban locations can protect against premature mortality, with air pollution reduction being one of the main protective benefits.

The report which was published by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in collaboration with Colorado State University and the World Health Organisation (WHO) included nine studies involving seven countries and a total of over eight million people. 

Many existing studies have suggested that green spaces in cities have a positive effect on health, including improved mental health and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease but many of these studies look at only one specific point in time and use different ways to measure exposure to greenness.

The researchers followed the same cohort of people across several years from Canada, United States, Spain, Italy, Australia, Switzerland, and China.

The meta-analysis of these studies found that an increase in greenness around homes is significantly associated with reduced premature mortality and they estimate there is a 4% reduction in premature mortality for every 0.1 increments of vegetation score, within 500 meters of the residence. 

According to the study, the reduction of PM2.5 air pollution by the green space explains 4% of the association between green space and reduced mortality. 

Reduced air pollution, noise, and temperature control are the other main protective effects of green spaces, according to the study.

David Rojas, first-author of the study and researcher at ISGlobal and Colorado State University said: ‘This is the largest and most comprehensive synthesis to date on green space and premature mortality.’ 

‘The results support interventions and policies to increase green spaces as a strategy to improve public health.’ 

‘This study provides important information that can already be used in future Health Impact Assessment studies.’ 

Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, director of the Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative at ISGlobal said: ‘ Urban greening programmes are not the only key to promoting public health, but they also increase biodiversity and mitigate the impacts of climate change, making our cities more sustainable and livable.’ 

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