Anxiety warning as kids growing up by green spaces ‘less likely to live with mental health problems’

By Staff 5 Min Read

Researchers found that children aged between two and five who were born within three quarters of a mile from green spaces were less likely to suffer from anxiety

Young kids have fewer emotional problems if they grow up around trees, forests or parks, a new study claims.

Researchers found that children aged between two and five who were born within three quarters of a mile from green spaces were less likely to suffer from anxiety. The team from North Carolina found that kids of that age were also less depressed and the results held even after factoring in the child’s sex, parent education, age at birth, and neighbourhood socioeconomic vulnerability.

Dr Nissa Towe-Goodman, a researcher from the Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill said: “Our research supports existing evidence that being in nature is good for kids. It also suggests that the early childhood years are a crucial time for exposure to green spaces.”

The study, funded by the NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) programme was published in the journal JAMA Network Open. Previous research showed that nature is important for our mental health but there were only very limited studies involving young children. The team analysed information from parents about the behaviour of their children combined with data on the family’s residential address when the child was born and satellite data on live vegetation density around their homes.

Most research so far has been limited to studying one or a few cities at a time, and focused on adult health. However the ECHO Program collects data nationwide so researchers were able to examine data from children in 199 counties across 41 US states. The study included children born between 2007 and 2013 and whose parents completed the Child Behaviour Checklist, a common survey to rate a child’s emotional and behavioural symptoms.

The 2,103 children included in the study ranged in age from two to 11, spanning early and middle childhood. Dr Towe-Goodman added: “In the future, researchers could look into what kinds of experiences in nature are connected to kids’ early mental health. Also, we should study how creating or preserving natural areas around homes and schools might make a difference in a child’s mental health.”

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