WTFery in the News: 18-Aug-2014 (The Health Edition)

August 18, 2014 Randomnessosity, WTFery in the News 0

The Suburbs Made Us Fat – I hate to say it but I think I agree with this article. I lived in a large city for years. Although we had a car – we rarely drove it. We did a lot of walking and biking instead – in fact I averaged about 4-5 miles of biking per day just getting back and forth to work, let alone doing anything else. Now I live in a suburb. It’s a beautiful suburb with wide tree-lined streets and lots of safe cul-de-sacs. And I’m getting fat. I’ve gained over 20 pounds from my city weight – and this is with exercising 45mins-1 hour a day (5 days a week). I want to move back to the city.

In prior research, Marshall told me, they found that in the most extreme cases “older, denser, connected cities were killing three times fewer people than sparser, tree-like cities on an annual basis.”

They looked at the three fundamental measures of street networks—density, connectivity, and configuration—in 24 California cities, and compared them with various maladies. In the current Journal of Transport and Health, Garrick and Marshall report that cities with more compact street networks—specifically, increased intersection density—have lower levels of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease. The more intersections, the healthier the humans.

They also found that wide streets with many lanes are associated with high rates of obesity and diabetes. That’s most likely indicative of, as Garrick and Marshall put it, “an inferior pedestrian environment.” Similarly, so-called “big box” stores in a neighborhood indicate poor walkability and are associated with 24.9 percent higher rates of diabetes and 13.7 percent higher rates of obesity.

The Health Benefits of Trees
– I love this article! It gives a great summary of all the health benifits of trees. Some of the things discussed are pretty amazing. Trees help you heal faster and help you focus – this in in addition to the benefits we get from trees reducing pollution. I wonder how this research would line up with the above research on city design.

In the current journal Environmental Pollution, forester Dave Nowak and colleagues found that trees prevented 850 human deaths and 670,000 cases of acute respiratory symptoms in 2010 alone. That was related to 17 tonnes of air pollution removed by trees and forests, which physically intercept particulate matter and absorb gasses through their leaves.

In general, the more trees are in an area, the more pollution those trees remove. But they also remove more pollution-per-tree in areas where population density is high, and the health value derived from pollution removal is highest in urban areas.

When the emerald ash borer began ravaging thousands of trees in the American Midwest, as Lindsay Abrams noted in The Atlantic last year, rates of human death from cardiovascular and respiratory illness increased. One study monitored disease rates in 15 states from 1990 to 2007, where the borer was associated with 6,113 human deaths from illness of the respiratory system and 15,080 deaths from heart disease.

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