Build up your self-esteem, feel happier and live longer – just some of the reasons we should all live near trees.
Trees are officially good for your health, says the Government’s strategy for public health which was launched this week by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley. ‘Healthy Lives, Healthy People‘ provides a welcome recognition of the importance of the quality of the environment within which people live on their physical and mental health.
This is supported by evidence which shows that proximity to good quality green space can help to make physical activity and contact with nature part of everyday life, with clear consequential benefits to health and wellbeing. With nearly a quarter of both men and women in the UK now classified as obese the Government is looking at the role that trees, woods and other green space can play in encouraging physical activity.
Trees are also good for our mental health. They have been found to enhance mood, improve self esteem and lower blood pressure. Research in the Netherlands and Japan indicated that people were more likely to walk or cycle to work if the streets were lined with trees and live longer and feel better as a result. Studies have also looked at the beneficial effects of natural surroundings on children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
The Campaign for Greener Healthcare and the initiative to establish an NHS Forest illustrate a growing consensus amongst health professionals of the importance of trees to peoples’ health and wellbeing. With plans to plant a tree for every one of the 1.3 million NHS employees, the NHS Forest endorses the role of trees in air quality, improved health outcomes and reducing negative environmental impacts.
With 80% of people living in urban areas, but less than 10% of the population having access to local woodland within 500m of their home, it is fundamental that the targets for more woodland creation will meet the need for trees and woods near to where people live, so they can continue to contribute towards healthier lives.
Mike Townsend, Conservation Team Leader