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Exploring links between greenspace and sudden unexpected death: a spatial analysis
Wu, J., K. Rappazzo, R. Simpson, G. Joodi, I. Pursell, P. Mounsey, W. Cascio, AND L. Jackson. Exploring links between greenspace and sudden unexpected death: a spatial analysis. ENVIRONMENT INTERNATIONAL. Elsevier B.V., Amsterdam, Netherlands, 113:114-121, (2018).
Sudden unexpected death (SUD), commonly referred to as sudden cardiac death, is one of the leading causes of mortality in the United States. Currently, risk factors for SUD are not well understood. The main objective of this ecological study is to explore the relationship between SUD incidence and local greenspace using spatial techniques. SUD incidence had significant negative associations with greenway density and percent forest. These findings provide new insights in SUD prevention by exposure to the natural environment, specifically neighborhood greenway trails and forest.
Greenspace has been increasingly recognized as having numerous health benefits. However, its effects are unknown concerning sudden unexpected death (SUD), commonly referred to as sudden cardiac death, which constitutes a large proportion of mortality in the United States. Because greenspace can promote physical activity, reduce stress and buffer air pollutants, it may have beneficial effects for people at risk of SUD, such as those with heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. Using several spatial techniques, this study explored the relationship between SUD and greenspace. We adjudicated 396 SUD cases that occurred from March 2013 to February 2015 among reports from emergency medical services (EMS) that attended out-of-hospital deaths in Wake County (central North Carolina, USA). We measured multiple greenspace metrics in each census tract, including the percentages of forest, grassland, average tree canopy, tree canopy diversity, near-road tree canopy and greenway density. The associations between SUD incidence and these greenspace metrics were examined using Poisson regression (non-spatial) and Bayesian spatial models. The results from both models indicated that SUD incidence was inversely associated with both greenway density (adjusted risk ratio [RR] = 0.82, 95% credible/ confidence interval [CI]: 0.69-0.97) and the percentage of forest (adjusted RR=0.90, 95% CI: 0.81-0.99). These results suggest that increases in greenway density by one km/km2 and in forest by 10% were associated with a decrease in SUD risk of 18% and 10%, respectively. The inverse relationship was not observed between SUD incidence and other metrics, including grassland, average tree canopy, near-road tree canopy and tree canopy diversity. This study implies that greenspace, specifically greenways and forest, may have beneficial effects for people at risk of SUD. Further studies are needed to investigate potential causal relationships between greenspace and SUD, and potential mechanisms such as promoting physical activity and reducing stress.