Anyone who knows me can tell you I love trees. LOVE trees. So it’s no surprise that I’m advocating tree-hugging, but I’m not actually talking about it here for the reasons I usually do (sanity check, beauty, air purity, etc…). I’m actually talking about your health. As it turns out, the health benefits of trees are not all mental and emotional. Not that those aren’t important, but there tends to be some eye-rolling when doctors talk about “connecting with nature” and “getting out into the woods to relax.” I get it.
A recent study published in the journal Environmental Pollution showed that trees (just trees!!) prevented 850 human deaths, averted $6.8 billion dollars in health care costs, and helped prevent 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone. That is all because of trees and all in just one year. But again – the respiratory part, we all knew about because trees are the natural filters for our air and trees and plants generally are our major natural air filters. This great pictograph shows precisely how much air pollution is removed by trees in your area:
More remarkably, there is a link between trees and your heart health. A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine in 2013 took advantage of a natural crisis in the tree population to show how the number of trees affects human health. Between 1990 and 2007 the Emerald Ash Borer (a type of insect) killed hundreds of millions of Ash trees in the U.S. and this study looked at trends in heart disease and also lung disease during that time. The results showed a clear increase in heart disease and death from cardiac causes in areas that were losing trees – 15,080 heart-related deaths because of tree loss specifically. In those areas there were also an additional 6113 deaths from lung disease. This suggests that the link between trees and heart disease may even be stronger than the link between trees and lung disease.
Trees also help reduce stress levels, increase wound healing speed and generally make life more livable. In fact, Richard Louv proposed a series of problems, especially behavioral problems in children stemming from “Nature Deficit Disorder.” I don’t know about you, but for my heart, my stress levels and my overall happiness I’m going to do everything I can to spend more time with trees.