Policy Update

First in Science: More Trees Mean Lower Medicare Bills



NCEL Point of Contact

Dylan McDowell
Executive Director

Communities with More Trees Face Lower Medicare Costs:
More Evidence that Nature Can Improve Your Health

Research continues to demonstrate the physical and mental benefits of nature. A new study adds to this research by finding that counties with forests have lower Medicare costs. While this study doesn’t conclude causation between forests and lower Medicare costs, it does prove an association which strengthens existing research on the health benefits of nature.

The Study

Researchers analyzed health and environmental data from 3,086 of the 3,103 counties in the continental US. They categorized land as urban, shrubland, forest, grassland, or agricultural. These categories were overlaid with Medicare spending per capita. Spending was controlled for factors such as age, sex, race, income, and health care access.


The results showed that for each 1% of land covered in forest, there were an average Medicare savings of $4.32 per person. This equals a total of nearly $6 billion annually in nationwide savings. The savings were the largest amongst low-income communities. By encouraging more forested land, counties can work to reduce Medicare costs in their communities.

Researchers found a correlation between areas with forest or shrub cover and lower Medicare costs. There was no correlation in agricultural or grassland areas.