Living near parks slows biological ageing in city dwellers, study suggests

Urban residents who live near green spaces may undergo slower biological ageing, as measured by changes to their DNA.

This is the conclusion of a study by US researchers who found that people who lived near parks or other areas with plants for 20 years appeared to be effectively up to 2.5 years younger than those surrounded by less nature.

The “epigenetic age” of more than 900 US citydwellers was compared to their exposure to green spaces as calculated based on analysis of satellite images of their surroundings.

However, the team noted that the benefits of natural surroundings on health appeared to be mediated by other factors like race, sex, and socioeconomic status.

The findings could help urban planners develop cities in which the use of green spaces better contributes to public health.

READ MORE: Regular napping linked to good brain health in adults aged 40 to 69, study finds[LATEST]

The study is the first to investigate the effect of long-term — that is, around two decades’ worth — exposure to green spaces on biological ageing.

It was undertaken by epidemiologist Dr Kyeezu Kim of Illinois’ Northwestern University and her colleagues.

Dr Kim said: “When we think about staying healthy as we get older, we usually focus on things like eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep.

“However, our research shows that the environment we live in — specifically our community and access to green spaces — is also important for staying healthy as we age.”

The measure used by the researchers is called the “DNA methylation-based epigenetic age” — and is based on chemical changes in DNA that can affect age-related health issues.

The team determined the epigenetic age of 924 people living in one of four US cities, specifically Birmingham (Alabama), Chicago, Minneapolis and Oakland (California).

The subjects represented a subset of the cohort in the larger-scale “Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults” (CARDIA) study, which — as the name suggests — is exploring the development of cardiovascular disease.

The epigenetic age of the participants was compared to their exposure to surrounding green spaces over a 20-year period as determined from satellite images, factoring in both the proximity of major parks near each subject’s home and the overall surrounding vegetation.

We use your sign-up to provide content in ways you’ve consented to and to improve our understanding of you. This may include adverts from us and 3rd parties based on our understanding. You can unsubscribe at any time. More info

‘World’s healthiest crisps’ created – and it’s all about the potato’s maturity[REPORT]
Blood cell cancer chemical released when using gas stoves and hobs, study warns[ANALYSIS]
Global food supply ‘at risk’ from impact of Russian invasion of Ukraine[INSIGHT]

Professor Lifang Hou, paper co-author and fellow Northwestern epidemiologist, said: “Our study highlights that the natural environment, like green space, affects your health at a molecular level — changes in DNA methylation — which was detectable in blood.

“Our research team has extensively investigated the molecular-level changes associated with various age-related health outcomes, including cardiovascular disease, cancer, cognitive function and mortality.

“This particular study contributes to our understanding of how the natural environment influences these health outcomes.”

The researchers noticed that there did appear to be variations in the benefits of green spaces based on demographic factors like race, sex and socioeconomic status.

These disparities, they added, highlight the importance of further investigations into the relationship between the social determinants of health and the surrounding environment.

Dr Kim concluded: “We believe our findings have significant implications for urban planning in terms of expanding green infrastructure to promote public health and reduce health disparities.”

The research was funded by the US National Institutes of Health and the American Heart Association.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Science Advances.

Source: Read Full Article