Why trees: Health & wellbeing

Trees deliver a whole range of benefits, which make them an essential part of the future of any city or town. From helping us to breathe easier, to significantly improving our health and well-being to bringing communities and people together – the arguments for trees are clear.

Trees and urban greening play a key role in:

  • Improving air quality - Trees, woodland and other green infrastructure improve air quality by intercepting harmful particulates, which are a contributing factor to respiratory conditions such as asthma. (1)
  • Reducing stress – Urban residents suffering from stress experience less anxiety when they have a view of trees. Physical signs of stress such as muscle tension and pulse rate are also measurably reduced when moving into green surroundings (2)
  • Aiding recovery – Hospital patients with a view of greenery have been shown to recover more rapidly, and require less pain killing medication than those who only have a view of buildings (3)
  • Bringing economic health benefits - The health benefits of merely living close to a green space are worth up to £300 per person per year (4)
  • Alleviating depression - Taking part in nature-based activities helps people who are suffering from mental ill-health and can contribute to a reduction in levels of anxiety and depression (5)
  • Shading us from the sun – Thinning of the protective ozone layer coupled with more extreme weather patterns is being linked to the increase in skin melanomas, the most rapidly increasing form of cancer in the UK. Dappled shade of trees provides a useful barrier to harmful ultra-violet radiation (6)
  • Cognitive benefits - Contact with nature in our urban forests will improve cognitive function (4) and concentration can be improved by walking in nature or looking at pictures of nature (7)
  • Encouraging physical activity- Green spaces provide space to exercise which improves memory and cognitive function. (8) People who uses parks and other green spaces are three times more likely to reach the recommended level of physical activity than nonusers. (9)

 

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References

  1. A.G. McDonald et al (2007). Quantifying the effect of urban tree planting on concentrations and depositions of PM10 in two UK conurbations. Atmospheric Environment. 41(38): 8455–8467
  2. Ulrich RS, Simmons RF, Losito BD, Fiority E, Miles MA & Zeison M (1991) Stress Recovery During Exposure to Natural and Urban Environments, Journal of Environmental Psychology 11 : 201 -230 3
  3. Ulrich RS (1984) View Through a Window May Influence Recovery from Surgery, Science Journal 224 : 420-421
  4. National Ecosystem Assessment (2011)
  5. A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care, Natural England (2016)
  6. The role of one large greenspace in mitigating London’s nocturnal urban heat island: Doick, Peace & Hutching (2014)
  7. Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature. Psychological Science 19 (12), 1207-1212
  8. Colcombe, S., and A.F. Kramer. 2003. Fitness Effects on the Cognitive Function of Older Adults: A Meta-Analytic Study. Psychological Science 14, 2: 125-130
  9. Giles-Corti, B., M.H. Broomhall, M. Knuiman, C. Collins, K. Douglas, K. Ng, A. Lange, and R.J. Donovan. 2005. Increasing Walking: How Important is Distance to, Attractiveness, and Size of Public Open Space? American Journal of Preventive Medicine 28:169-176.