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Natural Awakenings Lehigh Valley

Nature Cure: Forests and Shrubs Lower Medical Costs

Nov 27, 2019 09:30AM

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A new study based on the National Land Cover Database of 3,086 of the 3,103 counties in the continental U.S. published in the journal Urban Forestry and Urban Greening found that increases in forest and shrub cover corresponded to decreases in Medicare health care spending, even when accounting for economic, geographic or other factors that might independently influence healthcare costs.

Urban and rural counties with the lowest socioeconomic status appeared to benefit the most from increases in forests and shrubs. University of Illinois graduate student Douglas A. Becker, who led the new research with Matt Browning, a professor of recreation, sports and tourism, says, “It occurred to me that low-income communities are getting the biggest bang for their buck because they probably have the most to gain.”

Other studies have shown that people in intensive care units recover more quickly and have fewer complications after surgery if their hospital rooms look out over trees rather than parking lots and that forest walks can influence potentially health-promoting hormone levels or anti-cancer immune cells in the blood.