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More green space in cities leads to fewer deaths

More green space in cities leads to fewer deaths

Parks, botanical gardens and other green areas are not only pleasant to stay in, but also have a direct impact on health. The more green areas in the immediate vicinity, the healthier and longer life will be.

For example, there is a very clear relationship between proximity to green areas and the number of heart attacks, says Patrick Grahn, professor of landscape architecture at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).

Researchers at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health in Spain ranked 1,000 European cities based on the cities’ total green areas, type of vegetation cover, and residents’ access to green areas.

In the current study, Presented at The Lancet Planetary Health, the researchers based on the World Health Organization’s recommendation that the green area in question should be at least 0.5 hectares (100 by 50 metres) and no more than 300 meters from their home, a threshold value set by Patrick helped Grahn move forward.

– If the green is far away, don’t go out too often. This link, he says, is very strong.

In the current ranking, which includes 13 Swedish cities, the researchers used two measures to calculate how “greener” the cities are. One is a kind of “vegetation index” where satellite maps measure, among other things, the city’s total green space.

This indicator also includes private gardens, says Mark Neuenhujsen, Professor of Environmental Epidemiology and lead author of the current article.

The second measure is the proportion of a city’s area that is made up of green spaces accessible to the public, such as a park. Next, the researchers calculated the number of deaths annually that would have been avoided if all the city’s residents lived according to the WHO’s recommendation.

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– We started from a number of different epidemiological studies and criteria, and thus tried to estimate the number of premature deaths that could be avoided if cities adhered to WHO guidelines for all residents, says Mark Neuenhuijsen.

The starting point was 1,000 cities, but because many cities mixed with each other, not least in urban areas, the list provided by the researchers consisted of 866 cities instead.

The study shows that if all cities adhere to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, 42,968 premature deaths could be avoided each year.

There are quite a few lives, just because cities lack green space or have very little green space, says Mark Neuenhujsen.

In the current review, the researchers placed the least green cities at the top, and the greenest at the bottom. All Swedish cities, except Malmö, do well with positions 663 or less.

The greenest of them all It is Gothenburg, which comes in at 842 out of 866, and is the greenest in all of Europe, in other words. According to the researchers, Gothenburg consists of 48.5 percent of green spaces and two-thirds of Gothenburg’s population lives in areas up to the World Health Organization’s recommendation. If everyone had done so, 14 premature deaths each year could have been avoided.

Shortly after Gutenberg, Lund (position 836) closely followed Borras (835). Stockholm ended up in 707th place, while Orebro and Vesteras ended up in 686th and 663rd places respectively.

Malmö stands out, regardless of whether you measure the overall green space or the proximity to public green space. This may be due to a method error that researchers are well aware of. One of the weaknesses of their approach is that it does not take into account the so-called blue zones, that is, seas, lakes and other waterways.

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– This could be an explanation, because Malmö is next to the water. On the other hand, 74 percent of Malmö’s population lives in areas that do not meet the recommendations of the World Health Organization, which is a fairly large proportion. There are certainly plenty of green areas elsewhere in Malmö, but it doesn’t matter much if you’re not in a place where people live, says Mark Nieuwenhuysen.

The study showed that, had this been the case, 29 deaths could have been avoided.

Paredes is the greenest city in Portugal, while Cadiz in Spain is the worst. In the latter, only seven percent of the area consists of public green areas, while almost none of the city dwellers have such an area in their vicinity.

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