Forests and Human Health July-1-2009

New Research

Exposure to green environment reduces health inequalities

A recent study published in Lancet suggests that income-related health inequality is reduced by greater exposure to natural environment. The study shows that in the greenest environments the relation between income deprivation and both all-cause and circulatory disease mortality was much weaker than in less green areas. The authors of the study (Mitchell and Popham 2008) suggest that the mitigating effect of green space on health inequalities might be caused by the capacity of natural environment to induce physical activity and to reduce stress. They conclude that the quality of physical environment might be essential in diminishing socioeconomic health inequalities. The study compared income-related health inequality in areas of England with different amounts of green environment. The study covered a population of about 40.8 million, and included 366 348 deaths of individuals younger than retirement age.

Mitchell, R. & Popham, F. 2008. Effect of exposure to natural environment on health inequalities: an observational population study. Lancet 2008;372:1655-60.


Berries and healthier life

Scientific evidence is mounting on the link between consumption of colorful forest berries -- such as blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries -- and living a longer, healthier life. For the abstracts of a recent conference, see


Research program: Well-being from Forests

Metla has started a new research program Well-being from Forests, which concentrates on the possibilities and problems connected to using forests for health and recreation purposes. This will be a rising trend all over the world and it is accompanied by increase of potential conflicts between different uses and user groups, like industry, tourism, reindeer or cattle herders or other local people, etc. Our research in Lapland, the nothernmost part of Finland, has shown that the conflicts can be mediated and solutions found, if all parties learn to respect each others’ needs, values and interests, and different uses are intelligently assigned to suitable areas, times etc.. We also need mechanisms by which profits generated in e.g. tourism, are channeled also to the local inhabitants, owners of landscapes, etc.

The program leader is professori Liisa Tyrväinen of Rovaniemi Research Unit ( ).


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