Plant a Tree, Save a Life

We’ve all heard that spending time in nature is good for health. It’s not just some excuse parents give their kids to get them out of the house. More and more evidence is proving just how beneficial and necessary exposure to nature is, and one study is specifically looking at planting trees.

Friends of Trees, a non-profit organization, has been planting trees in Portland, Oregon, for three decades. A new study uses this information to show a correlation between each tree planted and a decrease in cardiovascular-related deaths.

Many studies use satellite images to give estimates of flora in a particular landscape but cannot accurately account for individual trees or even distinguish trees from other plants. This has made past studies vague, at best. But for this study, the researchers used the trees planted in Portland, Oregon over a 20-year period, which came out to 49,246 trees.

They accounted for how many of these trees were planted and when, and cross referenced the numbers with incidences of cardiovascular disease-related deaths in the same area.

Results confirmed that the more trees in a given neighborhood, the lower the mortality rates were, with “significant” effects for the male and elderly populations. Not only did researchers confirm a connection between planting trees and less death, but they also found the correlation got stronger as the trees grew. For trees that were planted 11-15 years earlier, the mortality rates were double than for trees that were planted only 1-5 years earlier.

Additionally, the study showed that larger trees had a more significant impact on health than smaller trees, which researchers believe is due to larger trees’ ability to purify air, muffle sound, and regulate temperature. This may very well be one of the greatest health interventions in major cities. Researchers add that, in the case of planting trees, we’re looking at a modest monetary investment ($3,000-13,000) in exchange for a huge financial return: $14.2 million each year in lives saved.

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