We’ve all heard of crazy cat ladies, but how about crazy plant ladies? It’s time to get excited about plants if you’re not already, because Harvard research suggests that they could actually help women live longer.
Spoiler alert: women who live with and around vegetation not only live longer but they’ll be healthier both mentally and physically, too.
The study, supported by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Brigham Women’s Hospital, found that “women in the United States who live in homes surrounded by more vegetation appear to have significantly lower mortality rates than those who live in areas with less vegetation.”
Published in 2016, this was one of the very first nationwide studies on the relationship between women’s health and plants. Crucially, researchers conducted their study using data from a grand total of 108,630 women over a period of eight years, between 2000 and 2008.
Researchers recorded fewer deaths among women who lived in the greenest surroundings. Their mortality rate was 12 percent lower than women living in urban environments to be exact.
The study was published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, and its simple take-home message is as relevant today as it will ever be: spending your life surrounded by vegetation increases longevity!
And the reason? Better mental and physical health.
“Improved mental health, measured through lower levels of depression, was estimated to explain nearly 30 percent of the benefit from living around greater vegetation,” the study claimed. Living near vegetation (think parks, forests, hiking trails, and green spaces) increased women’s chances for social engagement and exercise and reduced their exposure to air pollution.
Research associate Peter James admitted that the team was surprised by their findings. “We were surprised to observe such strong associations between increased exposure to greenness and lower mortality rates,” he shared. “We were even more surprised to find evidence that a large proportion of the apparent benefit from high levels of vegetation seems to be connected with improved mental health.”
Plants have long been understood to have a beneficial impact on mental health, but now we know they can even lower the risk of depression. However, if you are a woman but don’t live near green spaces, never fear; indoor plants provide an excellent substitute for the great outdoors.
While the Harvard study doesn’t delve into the specifics of keeping house plants (its focus is on surrounding vegetation), it is nonetheless clear that indoor potted plants can provide many of the same benefits to health and longevity, such as increased productivity, cleaner air, and lower blood pressure, to name a few.
James revealed that study subjects who lived surrounded by vegetation had an extraordinary 34 percent lower risk of dying from respiratory issues. And, vitally, a life among greenery heralded a 13 percent lower risk of cancer-related death.
James also acknowledged the environmental benefits of planting green spaces. But the extra added angle on women’s health could potentially help influence the decisions of urban planners when designing living spaces in the future; a green life is a good life!
“We know that planting vegetation can help the environment by reducing wastewater loads, sequestering carbon, and mitigating the effects of climate change,” James said. “Our new findings suggest a possible co-benefit—improving health—that presents planners, landscape architects, and policy makers with an [sic] potential tool to grow healthier places.”
In the meantime, you can do it yourself in your very own home.
Earth 911 suggests that the six best brilliantly oxygenating and low-maintenance plants for your home are the succulent aloe vera, the colorful gerbera daisy, the lush peace lily, the striking rubber plant, the snake plant (otherwise humorously known as mother-in-law’s tongue), and the tropical weeping fig.
So, ladies, spruce up your homes and your health in one fell swoop, because plants really might change your life!