Children who have frequent contact with nature and green spaces grow up to have better mental health as adults than those who had less contact.

This is according to a new study by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal),

While contact with nature has been associated with health benefits like better cognitive development, mental, and physical health, few studies have considered the impact of childhood exposure to nature on mental health in adulthood.

Almost 3 600 adults studied

The latest study, which included almost 3 600 adults from Spain, Netherlands, Lithuania and the United Kingdom, asked participants how frequently they used natural spaces as kids. This included purposeful contact with nature – like hiking in natural parks – and non-purposeful – like playing in the backyard.

Participants were also asked about their current amount, use and satisfaction with residential natural spaces, and the importance they give to such spaces.

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The mental health of the participants was assessed through a psychological test and the residential surrounding greenness during adulthood was determined through satellite images.

The results show that adults who were less exposed to natural spaces during their childhood had lower scores in mental health tests, compared to those with higher exposure.

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“In general, participants with lower childhood exposure to nature gave lower importance to natural environments,” says Myriam Preuss, first author of the study.

Wilma Zijlema, ISGlobal researcher and study coordinator, says that this underlines the importance of childhood exposure to natural spaces for the development of a nature-appreciating attitude and a healthy psychological state in adulthood.

“It is important to recognise the implications of growing up in environments with limited opportunities for exposure to nature,” she adds.

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Source: Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) via www.sciencedaily.com

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