Living in green spaces linked to slower ageing
- Spending time in green spaces is associated with slower ageing due to slower epigenetic ageing, indicating a positive impact on the ageing process at a molecular level.
- Black participants generally have less greenness around them compared to white participants.
- The link between greenness and slower ageing is not as strong for black participants compared to white participants.
In a new study published in Science Advances, researchers looked at how spending time in green spaces, like parks or forests, can affect how our body ages at the molecular level 1. They wanted to understand this relationship over a long period of time and how it may be different for different racial groups.
They studied a large group of people living in urban areas of the United States, including both black and white individuals. They measured the amount of greenness in the participants’ surroundings using a tool called the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). The NDVI tells us how much green vegetation is present in an area.
Using statistical methods that took into account the participants’ individual characteristics and the socioeconomic conditions of their neighbourhoods, the researchers found that having more greenness around was linked to slower ageing at the molecular level. This means that being exposed to green spaces was associated with a slower process of ageing in our cells.
However, they also noticed some differences between racial groups. Black participants generally had less greenness around them compared to white participants. Additionally, the link between greenness and slower ageing was not as strong for black participants compared to white participants.
The researchers also considered the socioeconomic status of the neighbourhoods where the participants lived. They found that people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods had a stronger relationship between greenness and slower ageing compared to those in less disadvantaged neighbourhoods.
In summary, this study discovered that spending time in green spaces is associated with slower ageing at the molecular level. However, this relationship can be influenced by factors such as race and the socioeconomic status of the neighbourhood.
Greenness and Epigenetic Ageing
The molecular ageing that researchers refer to is specifically epigenetic ageing.
What is epigenetics?
Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression or cellular characteristics that are not caused by alterations in the underlying DNA sequence itself.
It involves modifications to the structure of DNA and the chemical tags attached to it, which can influence how genes are turned on or off without changing the genetic code.
Epigenetic changes can be influenced by various factors such as the environment, lifestyle, and developmental processes, and they play a crucial role in determining how genes function and how cells develop and age.
Epigenetic ageing refers to changes in the chemical tags on our DNA that can affect how our genes are expressed and how our cells age.
In the study we are discussing today, the researchers found that being exposed to green spaces was associated with slower epigenetic ageing, meaning that the chemical modifications on the DNA were occurring at a slower pace.
This suggests that spending time in green spaces may have a positive impact on the ageing process at a molecular level.
Green environments mean biologically younger
On average, people who lived near more green spaces were biologically 2.5 years younger, than those who live near less greenness.
“When we think about staying healthy as we get older, we usually focus on things like eating well, exercising and getting enough sleep,” said Kyeezu Kim, an author of the study. “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,” he added.