It’s been said that the grass is always greener on the other side—but grass, as it turns out, isn’t all that important. A new study published in Fast Company shows that neighborhoods with lush tree canopies, not lawns, can improve the mental health of their inhabitants.
The study tracked the health of 46,000 adults living in Sydney, Newcastle, and Wollongong, Australia, over the course of six years. Researchers came to a pretty precise conclusion: Adults who live in neighborhoods that are at least 30 percent covered with tree canopies are 31 percent less likely to develop psychological distress and 33 percent less likely to develop poor health. There’s nothing quite like a shady spot.
Here’s the deal: Tree canopies encourage communal activities in public spaces and relaxation, and reduce temperatures (you don’t want to barbecue in direct sunlight on a 90-degree day, right?). Makes sense, considering we already know that just five minutes in nature can decrease your stress levels.
The same benefits weren’t seen in spaces that simply featured expanses of grass. Consider this your cue to cut down on lawn maintenance and plant a tree instead. Who wants to be stuck on mowing duty anyway?