Have you ever consider the amazing benefits trees provide to our quality of life? Aside from quietly coexisting with our urban environment, our leafy neighbors are essential systems that are important not only for our environment but also for the health and well-being of its inhabitants. In fact, a growing body of research suggests that street trees and urban forests can play a large role in improving and promoting the health of urban residents across the nation.
According to Hanson et al report on The Human Health and Social Benefits of Urban Forests, trees provide our cities with a host of health benefits including cognitive and physical health. These are benefits that typically go unnoticed by the usual urban dweller but nevertheless, we enjoy. In essence, the health of our urban forests can essentially define the health of a city’s inhabitants.
Substantial research has found that trees can promote the following benefits:
In a study investigating the benefits of interacting with nature Keniger et al. found that there is good evidence that suggests exposure to green spaces in an urban environment could improve cognitive functioning and performance. In fact, nature can increase self-esteem, mood, reduce anger and have positive effects on emotions and behavior. Other researchers have found a correlation between exposure to nature and improvement of cognitive conditions such as attention-deficit disorder (ADD) symptoms among children.
Improved Physical Activity:
Several studies have also found a relationship between green spaces and physical activity. According to The Jersey City Tree Canopy 2015 Assessment Report, residents are more encouraged to exercise or walk in spaces that have street trees or have an adequate urban forest. This is because the more we walk, the fitter we are, ultimately helping to develop a healthier City. Other physiological benefits that trees can promote include reduction of stress as well as a faster post-operative healing. In fact, on a study conducted in a Pennsylvania hospital researchers found patients in a hospital room with a window had shorter hospital stays than those patients who had a brick wall.
Reduce Respiratory Problems
Cities that have a healthy tree-canopy experience a reduction of respiratory problems, particularly because trees naturally serve our environment with filtered air and water. Our leafy friends have the capacity to sequester tonnes of carbon dioxide and other pollutants from our environment. This is important for the health of city inhabitants as exposure to particulate matter can cause heart and lung disease. However, those who are at great risk are those suffering from respiratory problems and children as their lungs are still developing. According to Nowak et al, Journal Environmental Pollution article, trees prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone. A city’s urban forests can help avert $6.8 billion in health costs annually in the U.S. In addition, The U.S. Forest Service put a 3.8 billion dollar value on the air pollution annually removed by urban trees. In fact, in Washington DC., alone, trees had removed nitrogen dioxide to an extent equivalent to taking 274,000 cars off the traffic-packed beltway.
Other benefits that trees provide for our urban communities include:
- Reduce blood pressure
- Enhance cardio-vascular activity
- Encourage less crime
- Promote social interactions
- Foster social empowerment
In general, our cities’ urban forests are very important for the health of residents. Trees are not only responsible for providing us with environmental benefits but are also able to provide cities’ inhabitants with multiple health benefits.