|Trees are one of nature’s many wonders. They’re beautiful to look at and can house animals and produce fruits that we enjoy; they also provide us with shade when we need it on those hot and hazy summer days. As if that weren’t enough, new research from the University of Exeter has concluded that being around trees makes us happier, functioning as a natural antidepressants.
The study found that antidepressants were prescribed less frequently in areas in London which have more trees. To gain this information, researchers gathered data for antidepressant prescriptions across London in 2009-2010 and then compared that data with the numbers of street trees in the same area. They soon discovered that antidepressant prescriptions were significantly lower in areas which housed a higher concentration of trees.
How Do Trees Make Us Happier?
The idea that trees can have a positive influence over our mental state and wellbeing isn’t entirely new. As NatureAndHealth.com reports: “In Japan, people practise ‘forest bathing’, where they spend quiet time absorbing the wisdom of ancient forests, taking long walks among the trees to stimulate their immune system. In Taoism, students are encouraged to meditate among trees, and it is believed that the trees will absorb negative energies, replacing them with healthy ones. Trees are seen as a source of emotional and physical healing, and themselves as meditators, absorbing universal energies.”
To further study the reasoning behind these practices, Geoffrey Donovan looked at comparable death rates in areas where the emerald ash-borer decimated tree populations. He found that as more and more trees died, so too did deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory diseases increase. In other research, he discovered that areas with a higher density of trees actually had lower crime rates! While there could be other explanations behind these phenomena, of course, the suggestion that there is a correlation between our wellbeing and our interaction with trees is, nevertheless, quite interesting.
“Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people’s health. And if that’s true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does,” says Geoffrey Donovan.
Furthermore, the USDA’s Forest Service has also compiled research that shows people who live around trees are physically healthier: “About 850 lives are saved each year, the number of acute respiratory symptoms is lower by about 670,000 incidents each year, and the total health care savings attributed to pollution removal by trees is around $7 billion a year.”
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