Go hug a tree—it could be lowering your mortality rate, at least if you're a woman. In a study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal, scientists analyzed questionnaires that more than 108,000 women took between 2000 and 2008 and determined that those subjects who resided in areas with the most vegetation (as determined by satellite imagery, per the New York Times) had a 34% lower rate of mortality linked to respiratory disease, and a 13% lower rate of cancer mortality, than those who lived in the most barren areas. The overall mortality rate overall was lowered by 12% for ladies surrounded by the most greenery as compared to the least. Lead author Peter James says the four main factors of green-heavy areas that may be linked to reduced mortality rates include cleaner air, people engaging in more physical activity, more social interaction, and better mental health, such as lower rates of depression.
James says the "strong associations" between greenery and reduced mortality "surprised" his team, per a press release. Even more surprising: "evidence that a large proportion [nearly 30%] of the benefit from high levels of vegetation seems to be connected with improved mental health." But a bunch of leafy branches didn't seem to have an effect on deaths from a variety of other health issues, including heart attacks, diabetes, and stroke. You don't even have to move out of the big city to possibly reap these benefits. The associations were present in both urban and rural locations, James tells the Times. "Any increased vegetation—more street trees, for example—seems to decrease mortality rates." (Climbing a tree is also good for your brain.)