A study conducted by a Spanish-American research team showed that people who live near green spaces are 2.5 years younger biologically than those who live far from nature. This effect is especially noticeable among residents of disadvantaged areas.
The researchers analyzed a type of chemical modification of DNA known as methylation. DNA methylation changes as we age, and these changes can be used to determine a person’s biological age at the molecular level. Researchers call this an “epigenetic clock. Thus, by analyzing this “clock,” one can predict the likelihood of developing a heart attack, cancer, or cognitive deterioration.
Dr. Kiezu Kim and colleagues studied data from 924 people between 1986 and 2006 to determine how close they lived to green zones. The researchers then compared that data with blood tests taken from the subjects during the same time period, taking into account such variables as education, income, smoking and other factors.
The results showed that people whose homes were surrounded by 30 percent green space within a 5-kilometer radius were biologically younger by 2.5 years compared to those with only 20 percent or less green space around them.
The effect of green spaces on epigenetic aging is particularly striking in people who live in deprived areas. This confirms the importance of urban planning and the expansion of green spaces for public health.
Kiezu Kim and his colleagues’s study highlights the need to create and maintain parks and green spaces in urban areas. Not only do they beautify the urban environment, but they also promote health and rejuvenation.