Children who had a great deal of exposure to nature during their formative years are likely to develop sound mental health when they reach adulthood. This was the conclusion arrived at by a study conducted by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal), an investigative research institution supported by Barcelona’s La Caixa Bank.
The recent study boosted previous findings that natural outdoor environment contributes to the development of better mental and physical health in children.
Thd ISGlobal research aimed to determine the impact of nature-exposure in adults. Survey questionnaires were completed by 3,600 adults coming from four (4) major European cities: Barcelona in Spain), Doetinchem in the Netherlands, Kaunas in Lithuania), and lastly, Stoke-on-Trent in the United Kingdom.
The ISGlobal’s analysis of the survey yielded results suggesting that respondents who indicated better mental disposition were exposed to natural environments during their childhood years.
Exposure to nature has long been linked to several health benefits found in children who manifested better learning, and reasoning skills, when compared to children who grew up indoors, often in front of TV and PC screens. In the ISGlobal research, natural spaces referred mostly to green environments such as forests, gardens, urban parks and the like, rather than blue spaces such as rivers, lakes, beaches, etc. :
Aspects Covered by the ISGlobal Survey Questionnaires
The ISGlobal survey determined the frequency by which adults were exposed to natural spaces during their growing up years. As adults, they were also asked about their satisfaction with the greenness of their present surroundings. As corollary evaluation, the mental conditions of the participants were determined through questions about feelings of nervousness and/or depression during the inclusive four past weeks of responding to the survey. In addition, the greenness of the environment in which participants reside was ascertained by way of satellite images.
The results of the ISGlobal study showed that respondents who had limited exposure to natural spaces during their growing up years scored poorly in the mental health assessment tests. Lead author, Myriam Preuss, explained that the general impression elicited from those with less exposure to nature is that they were less concerned about the importance of natural spaces. In terms of physical health, they found no link associating childhood nature exposure to the present vitality of the adult; nor with the adult’s satisfaction in the use of green spaces.
Research and study coordinator Wilma Zijlema of ISGlobal, cited current statistics that seventy-three (73%) of the European population live in urban areas, whilst having limited access to green spaces. Inasmuch as the proportion is estimated to increase to more than eighty percent (80%) by the year 2050, their findings underscore the importance of recognizing the potential effects of limited exposure to natural spaces during a child’s formative years.
The ISGlobal study gives proof that exposing children to green environment contributes to the development of appreciative attitude toward nature and of sustaining a healthy psychological state upon reaching adulthood.