The holiday tree in your living room makes the season bright, filling the
house with the scent of pine (and covering the carpet with fallen pine
needles). And it’s well known that trees benefit the environment
by improving air quality, supplying oxygen and offering an ecosystem for
birds and animals, among other things. But trees are also beneficial when
it comes to your health, according to a recent study.
“Previous studies have found that nature can have a positive effect
on mental and physical health, such as lowering blood pressure and stress
levels and promoting physical activity,” says
James P. DeCock, MD, a family medicine physician at
Mission Heritage Medical Group in Foothill Ranch. “Now, researchers have specifically looked at
the effect of living on a tree-lined street and found people who live
in those areas report better health and have fewer cardio-metabolic issues
such as obesity, heart disease and hypertension than residents of places
with fewer trees.”
The study, published in Scientific Reports, focused on Toronto, Canada.
Researchers used maps and high-resolution images to find streets with
dense tree canopies, and also surveyed residents’ medical data about
their physical and mental health.
“Not only did the study find that people in tree-lined neighborhoods
felt better about their health, it also stated that more trees correlated
to more positive health perceptions,” Dr. DeCock says. “For
instance, an increase of just 10 trees on a street had the same effect
on someone’s perceived health as if they were seven years younger.
An increase of 11 trees correlated to a decrease in cardio-metabolic problems.”
The study authors added that the effect pertained to trees lining a street
and not in other areas, such as a backyard. They also said they couldn’t
pinpoint exactly why trees benefit a person’s health, but mentioned
reduced air pollution or nature’s mood-boosting properties as possible
“It’s certainly a good reason to plant a tree; perhaps get
some of your neighbors together and have a tree-planting party on your
street,” Dr. DeCock says. "You can't plant your holiday
tree if the roots are gone, but consider planting a live tree in your
front yard as a symbol of renewal for the new year. Not only will it beautify
the neighborhood, but it can also be good for you.”
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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical
care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.