The power of a garden to improve longevity has been demonstrated in a new study from Harvard University.
It shows women who live in homes surrounded by more vegetation have significantly lower mortality rates than those with sparse vegetation.
Those in the greenest surrounds had a 12 per cent lower overall mortality rate than those in the least green areas.
Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, it attributes a third of the benefit to improved mental health as measured through lower levels of depression.
While a garden increases opportunities for social engagement and physical activity, it lowers exposure to air pollution.
The authors were surprised by their findings, noting that while previous studies linked exposure to vegetation to lower mortality rates, they were limited and contradictory.
This study looked at the link over a period of several years and incorporated data on 108,000 women from the Nurses’ Health Study across the country.
Vegetation surrounding the women’s homes was calculated using satellite imagery from different seasons and from different years.
Other mortality risk factors, such as age, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity and smoking were accounted for.
In areas with the most vegetation, women had a 34 per cent lower rate of respiratory disease-related mortality and a 13 per cent lower rate of cancer mortality compared with those with the least vegetation around their homes.
Greener areas may buffer air pollution and noise while providing opportunities for physical activity.