That is the finding of a large Canadian study that took place over a 22-year span. “Residential levels of green space were associated with lower death rates, especially for deaths from
respiratory diseases,” says Dr. Paul Villeneuve, a senior research scientist of population studies at Health Canada.
The study took place in 10 cities in Ontario: Hamilton, Kingston, London, Ottawa, Sarnia, St. Catharine’s, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, Toronto and Windsor. It began in the 1980s and kept track of about 575,000 adults in those urban areas until the end of 2004, by which time 187,000 of the original participants had died.
The population in the study was randomly chosen from income tax filings. Postal code information was used to follow where people lived, even if they moved over time, and the amount of green space near them was measured by satellite. People in the study were assigned a “vegetation index” according to their postal code.
The study found that people living within a 10-minute walk from green space had lower mortality during the 22 years. This effect occurred regardless of whether air pollution levels were high or low in their area.
These results boost previous research on the health benefits of living near green space: earlier work found that being close to trees, plants and grass reduces stress and headaches, and improves thinking skills.