How Many Trees Can You See Out Your Window? Yes, This Matters

New research links natural green spaces to lower medical costs 

A new study finds that counties with more forest and shrub land spend less per person on Medicare than those dominated by agriculture or urban vegetation.

Tom Jacobs, Apr 2, 2019

| Pacific Standard – Evidence that living near green spaces is good for your health has been steadily building over the past few years.

Studies have linked access to nature to better heart health, better brain health, and greater all-around longevity.

But for some people, such findings don’t fully sink in unless they come with a dollar number attached. New research might hold sway among that group—and among anyone else concerned about health-care costs in an aging society.

A new study finds that spending on Medicare-covered health services is significantly less in counties that are rich with forests and shrubbery. “Bear” Befriends Boy, 3, Lost In NC Mountains; Was It Real?

“Counties with more forest and shrub land cover may hold both health and economic benefits for the elderly and disabled,” writes a research team led by Douglas Becker of the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign.

The group’s study is published in the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening.

The researchers analyzed data on 3,086 of the 3,103 counties in the United States.

They began with the National Land Cover Database, which measures the percentage of each county that consists of five types of vegetation: forest, shrub land, grassland, agriculture, and urban vegetation.

Then, after taking into account a number of factors known to influence health-care spending, such as age, race, and median household income, they compared those figures with Medicare per-capita spending in each county.

They found that each 1 percent of a county’s land that was covered in forest was associated with lower Medicare spending of $4.32 per person per year … Read more. 

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