How Trees Calm Us Down

by Paola Salomon

Roger Ulrich perceived a pattern among patients that were recovering from gallbladder surgery at a hospital in a suburban area of Pennsylvania. The patients whose rooms overlooked a green area with deciduous trees were being discharged a day sooner than those whose rooms were facing a wall. But how can the trees positively affect patients in a hospital by just looking at them? A psychology professor, Mac Berman, led the study with the help of researchers in the United States, Canada, and Australia. The study compares two large data sets from Toronto. “The first measures the distribution of green space, as determined from satellite imagery,” while the second “measures health, as assessed by a detailed survey of ninety-four thousand respondents.” These are results reported by Alex Hutchinson in a 2015 New Yorker piece. They showed that “an additional 10 trees on a given block corresponded to a one-per-cent increase in how healthy nearby residents felt.” The cost of planting new trees is high, yet it was estimated that people would feel seven years younger.

Emerald ash borers are killing many trees across the world; people mainly die from of cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses in places where trees succumbed to the pest infestation. Trees are not only good for the physical health of every human, but also for the mental health as well. Berman was able to conclude that people who interact with nature “performed about 20% better than their counterparts on tests of memory and attention.” Also, they tend to be in a better mood and motivated to work. That being said, hospitals are being constructed in a way that patients will be able to see trees from their rooms. In other words, they are willing to plant more trees to help the health and rehabilitation of the society.

Alex Hutchinson, “How Trees Calm Us Down.” The NewYorker. July 23, 2015.

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