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Study By U Of C Professor Finds Living On Tree-Lined Streets Makes People Healthier And Possibly Smarter

(CBS) -- Apparently you don't need to hug a tree, but rather just look at one to live a happy, healthier life.

Marc Berman, assistant professor of psychology at the University of Chicago, has conducted a study that was recently published in the journal Scientific Reports which found that if you put ten more trees on the street it makes people healthier and possibly even smarter.

Berman told WBBM during a recent walk through University of Chicago's beautiful tree-lined campus that, "We found that if you increase the number of trees on a street by about 10 you can improve people's health perception by about one-percent and decrease cardio-metabolic conditions for people who live in those neighborhoods by about one-percent. And to get those equivalent health benefits with money, you'd have to give every household in that neighborhood about 10,000 dollars and have them all move to a neighborhood that's 10,000 dollars wealthier, or make people years younger."

"So," Berman was asked by WBBM's Terry Keshner as the Hyde Park campus' trees hovered over them, "either create a time machine, give them a lot of money or plant a few more trees?"

Berman laughed, but agreed.

"That's what our study is suggesting, yes. I would definitely say that planting more trees is the more cost effective out of those alternatives!"

Berman adds, "We don't know exactly what the driving mechanism is, is it that the trees are cleaning the air better? Is it that having a tree encourages people to go out and exercise more? Or is it just visual, that just seeing these trees is aesthetically pleasing and that produces the benefits? Or it could be all of these things. So that's where we want to go with our research is to try to really understand the mechanisms that are driving these effects."


"We're also planning to do some studies where we're going to put people in an MRI scanner to look at their brain activity when they're interacting with natural environments versus urban environments to look for brain changes."

"We're not saying cities are bad, cities are really good in many ways. But how what can we do to make cities more livable? And one of the things that we're thinking is let's try to incorporate more natural elements into the cities to make them more livable."

"Planting more trees, maybe increasing the number of parks. There have been studies that suggest green space around schools can be really beneficial...even architecture and design has become very interested in this topic so how do we design our buildings more differently to make people healthier and more productive?"

Berman, a tall, bespectacled, native of Michigan is asked an important question as trees of all shapes and sizes look over him: Do you have a favorite kind of tree?

He laughs then says with a smile, "I like spruce trees a lot. Though it's funny in Chicago I don't see quite as many pines but I'm definitely a fan of blue spruce!"

He laughs again as the trees all around him blow gently in the summer breeze.

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