Image: Leoni Hoeller by Theresa Marx for Zeum Mag

Image: Leoni Hoeller by Theresa Marx for Zeum Mag

by Jessica Hill

More than half of the world’s population live in urban areas and this means we’re spending less time with plants.  But how much does that matter?  Apparently, it’s quite a lot.

According to a 2016 study conducted by Harvard University, women who live in areas with higher vegetation density have lower mortality rates than those who live in areas with less vegetation.  That means, the greener your surroundings, the longer you’ll live.

The study, which was conducted over an eight-year period and included more than 100,000 participants, found women living in greener areas had a 12% lower mortality rate. But how are plants and life expectancy related? The study suggests there’s a few different factors at play when understanding the link between nature and mortality.

One well-documented factor is that plants lower exposure to air pollution.  The plants in your home are eliminating chemicals from the air right now.  Even NASA recommends using plants to purify indoor air quality. The Harvard study also mentioned “increased opportunities for social engagement and higher physical activity” as key factors in why women who live in areas with high levels of vegetation live longer. But the major benefit was improved mental health, which was estimated to attribute to 30% of the benefit of living surrounded by greenness.

Surprised?  Well, so were the authors of the study.  Peter James, research associate at the Harvard Chan School Department of Epidemiology, said they were especially surprised to discover the associations between greenery, mortality rates, and mental health. “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,” he said.

So there you go. Scientific proof that plants not only keep you happy and healthy, but also help you live longer.  Is there any better excuse to add a few more plants to your indoor-garden? #itsplantporn




Jessica Hill is a freelance journalist who is interested in the relationship between plants and people. Follow her on Instagram @plantsunknown.