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Are Forests and Shrubland Good for Human Health?

Green is good. That's the lesson of a recent survey across America, which discovered that counties that are plentiful in forests and shrubland have lower Medicare expenditures than counties that primarily lie on other types of land. The researchers made sure to control for alternative explanations, such as economic differences and other geographic factors, leading them to conclude that greener areas appear to be healthier areas. The study, conducted by a team from the University of Illinois, examined all but 17 of the 3,103 counties in the continental United States.

According to one of the lead researchers, increasing the greenery in lower socioeconomic counties proved the most beneficial. "At first, I was surprised by this," grad student Douglas A. Becker said. "But then it occurred to me that low-income communities are getting the biggest bang for their buck because they probably have the most to gain." The study results noted that every 1 percent of a county that boasted forest areas saw a Medicare savings of $4.32 USD per person per year.

Forest facts:

  • At least a quarter of all modern medicine comes from rainforest plants.
  • The Amazon rainforest provides 20 percent of the oxygen on which life on Earth depends.
  • The International Day of Forests is celebrated around the world on March 21 every year.
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