Children living around green spaces get mental health boost later in life

Children who grow up with around green spaces have less risk of developing various mental illnesses later in life, according to a study from Denmark.

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, studied satellite data from 1985 to 2013 and mapped the presence of green space around the childhood homes of almost one million Danes. They then compared this data with the risk of developing one of 16 different mental disorders later in life.

It revealed that children surrounded by high amounts of green space in childhood have up to a 55% lower risk of developing a mental disorder, even after adjusting for other known risk factors such as socio-economic status, urbanisation, and the family history of mental disorders.

The study was published today (February 25) in prestigious American Journal PNAS and researchers believe this proves a ‘robust indication’ of a close relationship between green space, urban life, and mental disorders.

Postdoc Kristine Engemann from Department of Bioscience and the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University, who led the study said: ‘There is increasing evidence that the natural environment plays a larger role for mental health than previously thought. Our study is important in giving us a better understanding of its importance across the broader population.

‘Our data is unique. We have had the opportunity to use a massive amount of data from Danish registers of, among other things, residential location and disease diagnoses and compare it with satellite images revealing the extent of green space surrounding each individual when growing up.’

Co-author professor Jens-Christian Svenning from the Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University added: ‘The coupling between mental health and access to green space in your local area is something that should be considered even more in urban planning to ensure greener and healthier cities and improve mental health of urban residents in the future.’

Last year a report from charity Fields in Trust claimed that visits to Britain’s parks and green spaces save the NHS £111m a year through prevented GP visits.


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