Ten ways that trees improve the quality of our lives.
Trees give us shade on blistering August afternoons, make cozy dens for families of pileated woodpeckers, yield wood for baseball bats and provide the pulp for the paper on which these words are printed. Almost everyone could make a long list of the many ways trees directly benefit our lives.
It might take a while, however, before they’d think to list relief from stress or increased vitality to our communities. These are just a couple of the social benefits of trees that researchers have identified. The more we study trees, the more we find that there’s even more to gain from them than just firewood, lumber and shade.
Trees as Healers
You are lying in bed in the hospital recovering from surgery and turn toward the window for some inspiration. A view of the air conditioner units on the adjacent roof will not provide as much restorative affect as a view of a more natural setting. You may recover from surgery faster if you can see trees outside your hospital window.
A six-year study of post-operative patients with the same type of surgery in the same hospital showed that patients with views of nature were able to be released a day sooner—eight days instead of nine days—than patients with “barren” window views. What’s more, patients with natural views requested less pain medication, and a study of nurses’ notes confirmed those patients generally reported feeling better.
Another study found that inmates with views of farm fields from their cells requested fewer trips to the infirmary than inmates without a “natural” view from their cells.
Trees at Work
Views of nature assist in the workplace as well. A survey of more than 700 employees in private and public sectors assessed job satisfaction and performance as it relates to views of nature from work stations. Desk workers with views of nature reported almost 15 percent fewer illnesses than those without a view.
Natural views contributed to workers feeling more satisfied, patient and enthusiastic and less frustrated than those whose windows did not provide a view of nature. The more green seen from their windows, the better employees felt. The employees surveyed who had the opportunity to work outside said they felt the most satisfied and least harried.
How is the view from your place of employment? Is there any way to plant some trees?
Planting trees may be one way to turn the vacant