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Title:Beyond nature and health: do the benefits of nature extend from health to healthcare spending and opioid-related mortality?
Author(s):Becker, Douglas Allen
Director of Research:Browning, Mattew
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):McLafferty, Sara
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Van Riper, Carena; Grigsby-Toussaint, Diana
Department / Program:Natural Res & Env Sci
Discipline:Natural Res & Env Sciences
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):nature, green space, blue space, healthcare spending, opioid mortality
Abstract:Human exposure to natural settings holds numerous health benefits that are suspected or known to be substantial and wide-ranging, from simple outcomes such as improved sleep up to a reduced chance of mortality. This dissertation includes three studies that investigate the ability of nature exposure to extend beyond the health benefits into two higher-level effects that are in large part determined by health status: healthcare spending levels and opioid-related mortality rates. These studies employed an ecological and cross-sectional study design with counties in the United States with data from federal agencies in a series of geospatial regression models. The results show that counties with more green space (vegetated areas such as forests, parks, and fields), exhibit lower per-capita healthcare spending, but the same is not true of blue spaces (open bodies of water). Furthermore, green spaces were positively associated with opioid-related mortality in the third study. While these studies are ecological and therefore meant to serve mostly as a launching point for these research strands, the results do suggest that exposure to nature, or at least to green spaces, could confer benefits beyond improved health. Policymakers, urban planners and foresters, and others with a stake in health and healthcare policy may consider these results when designing policies and programs for a healthier society. Future research with data on individuals and other healthcare financing sources should be conducted to draw more definitive conclusions about these associations.
Issue Date:2021-04-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2021 Douglas Becker
Date Available in IDEALS:2021-09-17
Date Deposited:2021-05

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