More Parks and Trees Can Increase Life Expectancy

New research shows that increasing park acreage in areas that face park deficits and low levels of tree canopy could lead to significant population-level increases in life expectancy.

2 minute read

November 22, 2020, 9:00 AM PST

By Clement Lau


Chicago Lake Michigan Trees

Joseph Sohm / Shutterstock

"Parks Make Life Better" is a popular slogan used in the field of parks and recreation. It has been validated through numerous studies which demonstrate the many benefits of parks and how they indeed make life better for communities. Now new research conducted by UCLA in partnership with Prevention Institute and an advisory board of community-based organizations shows that parks can even help people live longer.

Specifically, the research offers the following findings:

  • Increasing park acreage in areas that face park deficits and low levels of tree canopy could lead to significant population-level increases in life expectancy.
  • Targeted investments in park infrastructure would significantly benefit the health of Latino and Black community members.
  • This is especially important in communities, like South Los Angeles, where the median life expectancy is 77 years, which is well below the upper bound for the county as a whole. In Beverly Hills, less than 15 miles away, life expectancy is as high as 90 years—13 years longer.
  • If all the census tracts in L.A. County expanded park access up to the county median, it could add up to 164,700 years in life-expectancy gains for residents living in park-poor tracts. Latino and Black community residents comprise almost 72 percent of the gain (118,000 years). 

Written by Elva Yañez of Prevention Institute, this article further identifies various actions that should be taken to address park inequities. Examples include: developing new policies and practices and reforming existing ones to prioritize investments in communities experiencing the greatest park deficits; evaluating agency policies and initiatives to assess their impact to reverse or reinforce park inequities and make corrections as necessary; and engaging with and listening to people living in low-income communities of color that have been historically excluded from park-related decision making. 

Thursday, November 19, 2020 in Parks & Recreation Magazine

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Multistory apartment building under construction.

New Tennessee Law Allows No-Cost Incentives for Affordable Housing

Local governments in the Volunteer State can now offer developers incentives like increased density, lower parking requirements, and priority permitting for affordable housing projects.

June 10, 2024 - Nooga Today

Pumping Gas

10 States Where the Gas Tax Is Highest

As the gap between gas tax revenue and transportation funding needs widen across the country, the funding mechanism is drawing increased scrutiny from both public officials and consumers.

June 9, 2024 - The Ascent

Concrete walkway with landscaping, decorative tiles, and picnic tables in a Los Angeles County park.

Wish Granted: Former Brownfield Transformed to New Park

Wishing Tree Park in West Carson, California officially opened last month, replacing a brownfield site with a much-needed green space for recreation and respite.

June 14 - Urbanize LA

"No right turn on red" and "Turning vehicles yield to pedestrians" sign.

The Tide is Turning on Right Turns on Red

The policy, which stems from the gas embargo of the 1970s, makes intersections more dangerous for pedestrians.

June 14 - NPR

Thick green forest on edge of lake in Louisville, Kentucky.

Louisville Begins Process to Clean Superfund Site

A public forest is home to dozens of barrels that have been leaking toxic materials for decades.

June 14 - Inside Climate News

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.