Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

Growing Up Near Nature Is Good for Your Adult Mental Health, New Research Suggests

Popular
Growing Up Near Nature Is Good for Your Adult Mental Health, New Research Suggests
Ghislain & Marie David de Lossy / Stone / Getty Images

Having access to green spaces such as parks and forests as a child may be beneficial to your mental health later in life, new research out of Aarhus University in Denmark suggests.

According to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States of America, Danish children who grew up with less greenery nearby from birth to age 10 were as much as 55 percent more at risk of developing a mental disorder later in life. Moreover, the researchers found that the risks actually decreased the longer children spent living close to nature — regardless of whether they lived in urban or rural areas.


"If you are surrounded by more green space consistently throughout childhood, you will have an even lower risk of having a psychiatric disorder," lead author Kristine Engemann, a postdoctoral fellow at Aarhus University, told Quartz.

The researchers compiled demographic data from the Danish Civil Registration System of nearly 1 million Danish citizens and used satellite imagery from 1985 to 2013 to map the proximity of green space to their childhood homes.

"Our data is unique," Engemann said in a press release. "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."

Comparing the data revealed that people who grew up surrounded by nature had a significantly lower risk of developing one of 16 mental disorders, such as obsessive compulsive disorder or schizophrenia, later in life.

For instance, subjects who grew up near green space had a 52 percent lower risk of developing substance abuse disorders overall, including a 55 percent decrease in risk for alcohol abuse, and a 40 percent lower risk of developing a neurotic, somatic or stress-related disorder, according to the study.

In other words, the association between green space and mental health risks is about as strong as other established impacts on mental health, including socioeconomic status or history of mental health issues, Engemann told NPR, with the caveat that the study simply shows a strong correlation and not cause and effect.

The findings are in line with previous studies that have indicated a link between access to green space and improved health. What sets this study apart, however, is that the dataset allowed the researchers to adjust for many other potential influences, like wealth, family medical history and urbanization trends.

Given that more than half of the world's population already lives in urban areas, urbanization is only expected to increase in the coming decades, and more than 450 million people around the world currently suffer from mental disorders, the study has major implications for how we plan our future communities and treat existing green spaces.

"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," co-author Jens-Christian Svenning said in a press release.

Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

The wildfires that roared through Eastern Washington in September had a devastating impact on an extremely endangered species of rabbit.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A protestor in NYC holds up a sign that reads, "November Is Coming" on June 14, 2020 in reference to voting in the 2020 presidential election. Ira L. Black / Corbis / Getty Images

By Mark Hertsgaard

What follows are not candidate endorsements. Rather, this nonpartisan guide aims to inform voters' choices, help journalists decide what races to follow, and explore what the 2020 elections could portend for climate action in the United States in 2021 and beyond.

Read More Show Less

Trending

Activists fight a peat fire in Siberia in September. ALEXANDER NEMENOV / AFP via Getty Images

The wildfires that ignited in the Arctic this year started earlier and emitted more carbon dioxide than ever before.

Read More Show Less
A metapopulation project in South Africa has almost doubled the population of cheetahs in less than nine years. Ken Blum / Wikimedia Commons / CC by 3.0

By Tony Carnie

South Africa is home to around 1,300 of the world's roughly 7,100 remaining cheetahs. It's also the only country in the world with significant cheetah population growth, thanks largely to a nongovernmental conservation project that depends on careful and intensive human management of small, fenced-in cheetah populations. Because most of the reserves are privately funded and properly fenced, the animals benefit from higher levels of security than in the increasingly thinly funded state reserves.

Read More Show Less
A new super enzyme feeds on the type of plastic that water and soda bottles are made of, polyethylene terephthalate (PET). zoff-photo / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Scientists are on the brink of scaling up an enzyme that devours plastic. In the latest breakthrough, the enzyme degraded plastic bottles six times faster than previous research achieved, as The Guardian reported.

Read More Show Less

Support Ecowatch