Increasing urban greening could save tens of thousands of lives, study claims

May 27, 2022  15:28

Creating more parks and other green spaces could prevent tens of thousands of deaths in dozens of major American cities over the past two decades, a new study says.

Living in greener areas can positively impact our physical and mental health, but there is a paucity of data on how changes in the distribution of green space can affect mortality rates across the country, said lead author of the study from the School Boston University Public Health Paige Brochu.

For their study, the scientists used US Census data, US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mortality data, and landscaping data from NASA satellites. They assessed how the amount of green space in 35 major U.S. cities affects all-cause mortality among adults aged 65 and over.

The researchers concluded that approximately 34,000 to 38,000 deaths - or 15 to 20 deaths per 10,000 older people - could have been prevented between 2000 and 2019 with a 0.1 increase in the normalized vegetation difference index - an indicator the number of green spaces.

On a positive note, researchers estimate that overall urban greenness has increased by almost 3% from 2000 to 2010 and by about 11% from 2010 to 2019, according to a report published recently in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.

So-called urban forests help mitigate the effects of floods, improve air quality and regulate temperatures, among other benefits.

However, according to the author of the study, greening may not be feasible in all cities due to differences in climate, water sources, urbanization and landscape, but these findings can be used by urban planners to assess local changes in greening over time and develop suitable plans. climate action in their cities.

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