Researchers from Oregon State University and the University of British Columbia found that mothers who live in greener environments deliver healthier babies — a plentiful amount of grass, trees and other vegetation leads to longer terms and higher birth weights.
The results of the study were unique, in that they did not falter when adjusted to specific area factors: neighborhood income, noise, outdoor walkability, and exposure to air pollution.
Perry Hystad, an environmental epidemiologist at OSU and lead author of the study, said the results were unexpected. “We expected the association between greenness and birth outcomes to disappear once we accounted for other environmental exposures such as air pollution and noise, he said. “The research really suggests that greenness affects birth outcomes in other ways, such as psychologically or socially.”
According to The Statesman Journal, researchers studied over 64, 000 births in the Vancouver, British Columbia area.
Their research found that mothers living in greener areas had 20 percent lower extreme pre-term births and 13 percent lower moderate pre-term births.
The study results were recently published in the “Environmental Health Perspectives” journal.
Hystad and Michael Brauer, the study’s senior author at the University of British Columbia, said the results could have significant implications for public health.
“We know a lot about the negative influences such as living closer to major roads but demonstrating that a design choice can have benefits is really uplifting,” Brauer said. “With the high cost of healthcare, modifying urban design features such as increasing green space may turn out to be extremely cost-effective strategies to prevent disease.”
It is unclear how much green space is needed to make a significant impact.
Hystad said green space is good, but the question is: “How do we maximize that benefit to improve health outcomes?”