The Link Between Trees and Human Health

Tree HuggerA new study by the U.S. Forest Service, reports there is evidence to support the fact that “exposure to the natural environment can improve human health.”

Scientists with the Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station saw the loss of the 100 million trees in the Eastern and Midwestern states, as an opportunity to study the impact of the significant loss to the natural environment on human health.

With 18 years of data from 1,296 counties in 15 states, research showed that the areas of the United States whose trees had been infested by the emerald ash borer, “suffered from an additional 15,000 deaths from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more deaths from lower respiratory disease when compared to uninfected areas.” The emerald ash borer is a beetle that kills ash trees, leaving communities with ash trees, treeless.

Geoffrey Donovan, one of the scientists involved in the study said, “There’s a natural tendency to see our findings and conclude that, surely, the higher mortality rates are because of some confounding variable, like income or education, and not the loss of trees, but we saw the same pattern repeated over and over in counties with very different demographic makeups.”

So, although there is a link between loss of trees and human deaths due to cardiovascular and lower respiratory disease, scientists have yet to find the reason for the link.

There is a lot to be said about this study. As a tree enthusiast myself, it is difficult to imagine life without beautiful trees. With what seems like endless epidemics of beetles that are killing millions of trees, from the emerald ash borer to the mountain pine beetle, we must find a way to save our trees. After all, according to this study, it may be the reason we have seen a rise in cardiovascular and lower respiratory diseases over the past couple of decades.

(Photo Credit: Flickr User apurdam)