A compelling body of research demonstrates that exposure to nature, especially trees, is beneficial to human health. We know little, however, about the extent to which understory vegetation that does not reach the height of trees, impacts human health. An additional gap in our knowledge concerns the extent to which daily variations in exposure to various forms of vegetation are related to human health outcomes. Many previous findings describing such connections were achieved in laboratory settings or through semi-controlled experiments, which do not reflect the dynamic variations of people’s daily exposure to nature. Thus, we conducted an online survey to address these questions. We used the National Land Cover Dataset 2011 and Google Street View images to estimate participants’ daily exposure to nature, and two standard questionnaires (General Health SF-12 and the Perceived Stress Scale) to assess health. Results show that greater exposure to trees in daily life is associated with better health outcomes. Specifically, higher neighborhood concentrations of tree canopy are related to better physical health, overall health and an increased capacity to control stress. In contrast, the results exploring the health associations of understory vegetation were inconsistent. In most cases, understory vegetation had a negative relationship with stress and mental health measures.
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