Trees make you feel $10K richer, 7 years younger. Here's how
Thursday, July 16, 2015, 10:33 - Looking for a natural way to extend your life expectancy, or up your net worth?
The health benefits derived from nature are well know, but new research has pinpointed specific ways that our lives improve based on the scenery around us.
A new study finds that having 10 or more trees on your block has health benefits on par with a $10,000 salary raise (or moving to a neighborhood with a $10,000 higher median income) or being seven years younger.
Data for the University of Chicago study was sourced from Toronto, and found that people who live on a tree-lined street are less likely to report conditions such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease or diabetes.
Results also showed that people who live in areas that have more or larger trees report better health perception. This outlook translates to a healthier lifestyle and diet among people who also act and feel younger. These characteristics are comparable to the perceptions associated with living in an affluent area.
The information was collected using satellite imagery of the Ontario city's inventory of trees on public land, mainly through residential neighborhoods and streets. Parks and private backyards were not taken in account, as it was determined that trees on the street would have a greater effect on all people within a single neighbourhood, rather than an individual household.
This added up to more than 500,000 trees across the major urban centre, while grass and shrubs were not included.
Greenspace map of the city of Toronto constructed from the Geographical Information System (GIS) polygon data set Forest and Land Cover.
The colored regions show the dissemination areas in the city of Toronto that were included in the study.
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These numbers were compared against general health surveys and socio-econmic data from corresponding neighborhoods.
In addition to lower instances of cardio-metabolic conditions, green spaces have also been found to have positive impacts on mental health, notably memory and attention span.
And the more trees, the better. Findings also suggest that having 11 more trees in a city block is comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $20,000 and moving to a neighborhood with $20,000 higher median income or being about one year younger.
For someone living in Toronto, the chances of being near a green space are pretty good.
About 30 per cent of the major city is covered with trees or shrubs, making it one of the greenest urban centres in Canada.
In 2014, TD Bank released a report that suggested Toronto's trees are worth about $7 billion to the local economy. This amount was calculated by taking into the account the cost to replace all of the city's trees, combined with positive effects on physical and mental health.
Aside from the new study findings, the benefits of living with tress are abundant. They help to improve air quality, absorb excess moisture and moderate temperature, helping to eliminate heating and cooling costs for nearby residents.
That same year, Mayor John Tory pledged to double the city's tree-planting budget and efforts over the next decade, while campaigning for Mayor of Toronto. About 40,000 trees have been planted since he took office in December.
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