City Dwellers Living Near Forests Have Healthy Brain Structure, Studies Suggest

Category: Health


Unlocking Word Meanings

Read the following words/expressions found in today’s article.

  1. dweller / dwɛl lɛr / (n) – a person or an animal living in a specific place

    City dwellers are more likely to develop poor health because of pollution.

  2. wasteland / ˈweɪstˌlænd / (n) – a patch of land where nothing can grow or be built; not usable

    There is a big wasteland just outside the city.

  3. resilient / rɪˈzɪl yənt / (adj) – not easily affected; strong

    Because of her intense training, her body was more resilient to injury.

  4. meditative / ˈmɛd ɪˌteɪ tɪv / (adj) – being absorbed in meditation or in deep thought

    Listening to ocean waves brings me to a meditative state.

  5. self-reflection / sɛlf rɪˈflɛk ʃən / (n) – the act of thinking deeply about one’s behavior and beliefs

    I usually use my Sunday afternoons for self-reflection.


Read the text below.

Studies show that city dwellers who live near forests are healthier because of low activity levels in their amygdala / əˈmɪg də lə /.

The amygdala is the part of the brain responsible for stress processing. People who live in the metropolis are more likely to have higher activity levels in this part of the brain because of different factors like noise, pollution, and overcrowding, thus resulting in poor mental health.

Lead researcher Simon Kuhn explains that brain plasticity supports the idea that the environment plays a part in shaping brain structure and function, as it has been proven before that people who live close to nature were healthier physically and mentally. This encouraged Simon Kuhn and his team to conduct a study on the effects of the environment on city dwellers’ health.

People who lived in cities that were next to different environments such as forests, urban green patches, and wastelands underwent memory and reasoning tests. Their amygdala were subjected to magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) as well.

The results showed that the city dwellers who live close to forests have healthier amygdala structure and are therefore more resilient to stress than the other participants.

Similarly, other studies also suggest that living near the sea brings the same effects as living in or near the countryside. The sea can bring about a meditative state, which in turn activates the prefrontal cortex, or the area of the brain responsible for emotional processing and self-reflection.

Viewpoint Discussion

Enjoy a discussion with your tutor.

Discussion A

• How do you think your residential area affects your health? Explain.
• Is your health a top consideration for you when choosing a residential area? Why or why not?

Discussion B

• On a scale of 1 to 10 (with 10 as the highest), how would you rate the stress levels of your country’s general public? Discuss.
• What things do you think help you cope best with a stressful environment?