If you are a tree lover, it may already seem obvious to you that trees improve your quality of life and can also increase the attractiveness and value of a property. If you’re on the fence about how many trees you’d like to live near, that’s certainly your call, and there are many neighborhoods that offer a low amount of tree cover. Regardless of where you like to live and spend your time, trees are undeniably good for our species. Herein, I describe several studies that point to and explain the many benefits of living near trees.
Trees Are Shown to Increase Lifespan in Women’s Study
A study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives found that women living in highly green spaces lived longer and experienced both reduced depression and exhaustion and lower blood pressure. The results were drawn from a Nurses’ Health Study that took place between 1976 and 2008. Mental Floss shares that co-author Peter James was “surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates.” They also found that people living in areas with greater tree cover often tended to have a higher socioeconomic status, which underlines the importance of urban tree planting and preservation as well as city garden initiatives.
Forest Bathing Benefits the Immune System
While the study mentioned above focused specifically on women’s health, it has also been established numerous times that people of all genders and ages benefit from spending time in the company of trees and in nature. An interesting example of this is found in the Japanese practice of Shinrin-Yoku, often translated as forest bathing. Mother Earth News shares that forest bathing “can reduce the stress hormone cortisol and increase your immune defense system.” The Forest Agency of the Japanese government started to officially encourage and promote forest bathing beginning in the 80’s so that its citizens could “wash” their minds and bodies in nature. The same Mother Earth News article reports that researchers from the Chiba University Center for Environment and Health studied 500 adults who participated in forest bathing and found that spending time in a forest setting reduced stress, depression, and hostility while improving participants’ sleep habits and energy levels.
Tree Cover Boosts Real Estate Values
As well as cleaning the air, improving the scenery, cooling the neighborhood, providing privacy, being central elements of a sustainable ecosystem, and housing local birds and other wildlife, trees actually boost home values. This was confirmed in a study carried by Virginia Tech (VT) and the U.S. Forest service that was published in the journal, Ecological Economics. Two of the principal researchers in this study were Kevin Boyle, the director of VT’s Real Estate Program and an agricultural and applied economics professor, and forest economist Thomas Holmes. This study of the economic impact of trees was developed in response to the issues of urbanization and climate change, which threaten trees, and piggy backed on/ was partially inspired by one of their previous studies of urban forest pests. Virginia Tech News explains that they “conducted a meta-analysis of 15 published studies from across the U.S. that assessed how much the trees on or near residential properties add to the sale prices.” This set their work apart from other research that had only examined a few cities each time.
Both local residential and county wide tree covers were evaluated. Trees were found to definitively increase property values. The maximum property value increase was found to occur when the tree cover was at about 30% in specific residential areas and at about 38% for county wide tree cover levels. This is just slightly below one of the American Forests organization’s community recommendations of a 40% tree cover as an ecological goal. The average tree cover the study encountered was only at around 14%. This means that a lot of communities have under-invested in trees and may not realize the monetary benefits of having a decent level of tree cover, such as “enhanced property tax revenues as property values increase.” Older trees, specifically those over 120 years old, were found to be the most beneficial to neighborhoods, both in their ability to reduce air pollution and to add more tangibly valuable shade and beauty to properties.
So, trees are good in very, very many ways. On the lighter side of nature appreciation, Nature RX is a comedic video series encouraging viewers to heal themselves through spending time outdoors. You can check out their award winning clips wherein pharmaceuticals are replaced with time in nature in spoof commercials here. They warn you to prepare for effects such as, “spontaneous euphoria and taking yourself less seriously.”