Green neighborhoods may help delay menopause

Living near green spaces is associated with a wide variety of benefits, including a lower risk of obesity, improved attention capacity in children and slower physical decline in old age.

In a new study, researchers found that living in a greener neighborhood is also linked to an older age at the onset of menopause.

The research was led by the University of Bergen and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal).

The team analyzed data on 1,955 women from nine countries (Spain, France, Germany, Belgium, United Kingdom, Sweden, Estonia, Iceland and Norway) who took part in the European Community Respiratory Health Survey (ECRHS).

Over a 20-year period, participants completed questionnaires on their health and lifestyle factors and underwent blood sampling.

The availability and extent of green space in their neighborhoods were also calculated.

The team found that women living in neighborhoods with little green space became menopausal 1.4 years earlier than those in living in the greenest areas.

On average, age at menopause was 51.7 years for women living in the greenest areas, compared with 50.3 years for women living in areas with little green space.

In addition to genetic factors, age at menopause is influenced by lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, physical activity and the use of oral contraceptives.

A number of biological processes could explain the association between green space and older age at menopause.

The team says stress increases the level of cortisol in the blood and exposure to green spaces reduces it.

Low cortisol levels have been linked to increased levels of estradiol, an important female sex hormone.

Perhaps women who live near green space have lower cortisol levels, which would allow them to maintain higher levels of estradiol, which may, in turn, delay the onset of menopause.

Exposure to green space is also linked to a lower risk of certain mental health conditions, such as depression, which is also associated with younger age at menopause.

The lead author of the study is Kai Triebner, a postdoctoral visiting researcher at ISGlobal.

The study is published in Environment International.

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