Increasing urban greenery could have prevented 34,000 US deaths in the past 20 years

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Scientists from Boston University found that increasing greenery in US urban areas may substantially reduce death.

They found that increasing green vegetation in large, metropolitan areas could have prevented between 34,000-38,000 deaths, based on data from 2000-to 2019.

The study also showed that overall greenness in metro areas has increased in the past 20 years, by nearly 3 percent between 2000-2010 and 11 percent between 2010-2019.

The research is published in Frontiers in Public Health and was conducted by Paige Brochu et al.

In the study, the team analyzed population data from the US Census, mortality data from the Centers for Disease Control WONDER system, and greenness data from NASA’s Landsat satellites.

They examined how increased green vegetation could affect all-cause mortality among adults 65 and older in 35 large US metropolitan areas.

The researchers calculated that 34,080-38,187 elderly deaths—or about 15 to 20 deaths per 10,000 seniors—could have been prevented between 2000-2019 with a 0.1 increase in NDVI across all 35 metropolitan areas.

The team notes that greening may not be feasible in all cities, due to differences in climate, water sources, urbanization, and landscape.

But city planners can use the study findings to examine local changes in greenness over time and develop an appropriate and effective climate action plan in their cities.

A similar case study estimated that a small increase in greening could have prevented 400 deaths among adults 55 and older in the Louisville metro area.

The researchers hope to further explore local changes in greenness distribution across other urban areas, and how these changes may have informed cities’ climate action plans.

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