Why trees: Health & wellbeing

Trees and woods help us to breathe easier, significantly improve our health and well-being as well as bring communities and people together.

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)
  • 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 (4)
  • 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 (5)
  • Encouraging physical activity- Green spaces provide space to exercise which improves memory and cognitive function. (6) People who uses parks and other green spaces are three times more likely to reach the recommended level of physical activity than nonusers. (7)
  • Saving lives - In the United States of America, trees help reduce or prevent more than 670 000 cases of severe respiratory diseases per year and thereby save more than 850 lives annually (8)
  • Reduce obesity - Children living in areas with good access to green spaces have been shown to spend less time in front of television screens, computers and smart phones ant to have 11-19 percent lower prevalence of obesity compared with children limited or no access to green spaces (9)
  • Bringing people together – Trees and woods can help to bring people together and strengthen communities, reducing loneliness and isolation (10)

 

-------------------------------------

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. A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care, Natural England (2016)
  5. The role of one large greenspace in mitigating London’s nocturnal urban heat island: Doick, Peace & Hutching (2014)
  6. Berman, M. G., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature. Psychological Science 19 (12), 1207-1212
  7. 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.
  8. Nowak et al., 2014
  9. Dadvand et al., 2014
  10. Kaplan R & Kaplan S (1989) The Experience of Nature - A Psychological Perspective, Cambridge University Press