Long-term exposure to residential greenness and neurodegenerative disease mortality among older adults: a 13-year follow-up cohort study

Lucía Rodriguez-Loureiro, Sylvie Gadeyne, Mariska Bauwelinck, Wouter Lefebvre, Charlotte Vanpoucke, Lidia Casas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Living in greener areas is associated with slower cognitive decline and reduced dementia risk among older adults, but the evidence with neurodegenerative disease mortality is scarce. We studied the association between residential surrounding greenness and neurodegenerative disease mortality in older adults. Methods: We used data from the 2001 Belgian census linked to mortality register data during 2001–2014. We included individuals aged 60 years or older and residing in the five largest Belgian urban areas at baseline (2001). Exposure to residential surrounding greenness was assessed using the 2006 Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) within 500-m from residence. We considered all neurodegenerative diseases and four specific outcomes: Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, unspecified dementia, and Parkinson’s disease. We fitted Cox proportional hazard models to obtain hazard ratios (HR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) of the associations between one interquartile range (IQR) increment in surrounding greenness and neurodegenerative disease mortality outcomes, adjusted for census-based covariates. Furthermore, we evaluated the potential role of 2010 air pollution (PM2.5 and NO2) concentrations, and we explored effect modification by sociodemographic characteristics. Results: From 1,134,502 individuals included at baseline, 6.1% died from neurodegenerative diseases during follow-up. After full adjustment, one IQR (0.22) increment of surrounding greenness was associated with a 4–5% reduction in premature mortality from all neurodegenerative diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, vascular and unspecified dementia [e.g., for Alzheimer’s disease mortality: HR 0.95 (95%CI: 0.93, 0.98)]. No association was found with Parkinson’s disease mortality. Main associations remained for all neurodegenerative disease mortality when accounting for air pollution, but not for the majority of specific mortality outcomes. Associations were strongest in the lower educated and residents from most deprived neighbourhoods. Conclusions: Living near greener spaces may reduce the risk of neurodegenerative disease mortality among older adults, potentially independent from air pollution. Socioeconomically disadvantaged groups may experience the greatest beneficial effect.

Original languageEnglish
Article number49
Pages (from-to)49
JournalEnvironmental Health: A Global Access Science Source
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2022

Bibliographical note

© 2022. The Author(s).


  • Air pollution
  • Dementia
  • Greenness
  • Long-term exposure
  • Mortality
  • Neurodegenerative disease


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