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Jul 29, 2014 05:53 AM EDT

Green Spaces Increase Birth Weight: Study

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Pregnant women residing near green spaces deliver babies with higher birth weights, according to a new study by the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.

Previous studies have found that every 10 percent increase in green space is associated with a reduction in diseases - equivalent to an increase of five years of life expectancy. It also helps to keep depression at bay.

The researchers examined nearly 40,000 live births in Tel Aviv, Israel, to assess the impact of green surroundings on pregnancy and birth outcomes. Green spaces including parks, community gardens or even cemeteries were defined as land that is either partly or completely covered with grass, trees, shrubs, or other vegetation.

The researchers found that lowest birth weights were observed in children from economically-deprived communities where the pregnant women were exposed to lesser green spaces.

"We found that that overall, an increase of surrounding greenery near the home was associated with a significant increase of birth weight and decreased risk for low birth weight," said Prof. Michael Friger, of Department of Public Health, in a press release. "This was the first study outside of the United States and Europe demonstrating associations between greenery and birth weight, as well as the first to report the association with low birth weight."

"The application of remote sensing data on surrounding green areas enabled our study to take small-scale green spaces (eg, street trees and green verges) into account, while the OpenStreetMap data determined the major green spaces," Friger said.

The study titled "Green Spaces and Adverse Pregnancy Outcomes" is published in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine.

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