Vegetated land cover near residence is associated with reduced allostatic load and improved biomarkers of neuroendocrine, metabolic and immune functions

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Abstract

Background

Greater exposure to urban green spaces has been linked to reduced risks of depression, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and premature death. Alleviation of chronic stress is a hypothesized pathway to improved health. Previous studies linked chronic stress with a biomarker-based composite measure of physiological dysregulation known as allostatic load.

Objective

This study's objective was to assess the relationship between vegetated land cover near residences and allostatic load.

Methods

This cross-sectional population-based study involved 206 adult residents of the Durham-Chapel Hill, North Carolina metropolitan area. Exposure was quantified using high-resolution metrics of trees and herbaceous vegetation within 500 m of each residence derived from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's EnviroAtlas land cover dataset. Eighteen biomarkers of immune, neuroendocrine, and metabolic functions were measured in serum or saliva samples. Allostatic load was defined as a sum of potentially unhealthy biomarker values dichotomized at 10th or 90th percentile of sample distribution. Regression analysis was conducted using generalized additive models with two-dimensional spline smoothing function of geographic coordinates, weighted measures of vegetated land cover allowing decay of effects with distance, and geographic and demographic covariates.

Results

An inter-quartile range increase in distance-weighted vegetated land cover was associated with 37% (95% Confidence Limits 46%; 27%) reduced allostatic load; significantly reduced adjusted odds of having low level of norepinephrine, dopamine, and dehydroepiandrosterone, and high level of epinephrine, fibrinogen, vascular cell adhesion molecule-1, and interleukin-8 in serum, and α-amylase in saliva; and reduced odds of previously diagnosed depression.

Conclusions

The observed effects of vegetated land cover on allostatic load and individual biomarkers are consistent with prevention of depression, cardiovascular disease and premature mortality.

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