A new study has found that people who live near green spaces, such as parks and places surrounded by vegetation, are more likely to be biologically younger.
Key details: For the study, which was published in Science Advances on Wednesday, researchers from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago looked into data gathered from 1986 to 2006 about 924 Black and white participants living in Birmingham, Alabama; Oakland, California; Chicago and Minneapolis.
Gathering data: The team followed the participants for over two decades and took note of the presence of major parks and vegetation near their residences using satellite imaging.
In addition, they analyzed blood samples from the participants during the 15th and 20th year of the study to figure out their biological ages.
Variables that could impact the results, such as income, education and smoking habits were kept in mind as the findings were analyzed.
The results: The researchers found that participants surrounded by around 30% of vegetation within a three-mile radius were 2.5 years biologically younger on average than those who live near around 20% or less of green space.
“Living near more greenness can help you be younger than your actual age,” the study’s lead author, Kyeezu Kim, told AFP. “We believe our findings have significant implications for urban planning in terms of expanding green infrastructure to promote public health and reduce health disparities.”
Disparity due to race: The study also found a disparity in the benefits of living near green spaces based on race, noting that some Black participants with the same surroundings as the study’s white participants were only biologically younger by one year, while the white participants were found to be biologically younger by three years.
Kim explained that there are many factors to consider when looking into the disparity, such as “stress, qualities of the surrounding green space, and other social support.”
Other disparities: Aside from race, the study noted that its female participants were more likely to be biologically younger than its male participants.
The researchers explained that this could be due in part to the “traditional social role as a caregiver” that “increase [women’s] use of residential surrounding greenness… Research indicates that the use of green space differs by sex; for example, women can visit parks more often potentially for social interaction and cohesion or as part of caring for children.”
Commenting on the study: Last month, Kim explained the significance of the team’s findings to Northwestern Now, saying, “Our research shows that the environment we live in, specifically our community and access to green spaces, is also important for staying healthy as we age.”