City parks and green spaces help counter heat, boost biodiversity, and instill a sense of calm in the urban jungle.
They also help slow biological aging, with people who have access to green spaces found to be on average 2.5 years biologically younger than those who do not, according to a new study published Wednesday in Science Advances.
Exposure to green spaces has previously been linked with better cardiovascular health and lower rates of mortality.
It’s thought that more physical activity and social interactions are at play, but whether parks actually slowed down aging on a cellular level has been unclear.
This new study investigated the impact of parks on biological age. The team analysed a type of DNA chemical modification known as “methylation”. “Methylation” is a chemical process that occurs in our DNA.
Certain patterns of DNA methylation tend to change as we age, and these changes can be used to estimate a person's biological age on a molecular level - something known as an “epigenetic clock.
The research team analysed the home addresses of 924 people across four US cities over 20 years - from 1986 to 2006 - to determine how close they lived to vegetation and parks.
They paired this data with blood samples taken during the same time period, controlling for other variables like education, income, and risk factors like smoking.
The results are stark. One group of respondents lived at addresses surrounded by 20 per cent green cover within a 5km radius. They were around 2.5 years biologically older than those whose homes were surrounded by 30 per cent green cover.
Source: Medical Xpress