441 Nurture with Nature

Research by Engemann, Kristine; Pedersen, Carston Bocker; Arge, Lars; Tsirogiannis, Constantinos; Mortensen, Preben Bo; & Svenning, Jens-Christian (2019). Residential green space in childhood is associated with a lower risk of psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,116(11), 5188-5193.doi:10.1073/pnas.1807504116

Written by Robin N. Fatovic B.S

Some people experience depression during colder months with less sunlight and they are more likely indoors. Nature can have a profound impact on mental health. But even in warmer months, do city dwellers experience any mental health difficulties due to nature deficit?

Danish researchers studied the amount of residential greenery and tracked mental health of nearly one million children over several years. They assessed residential exposure to nature by reviewing high-resolution satellite images showing higher and lower vegetative areas. Controlling for many socioeconomic and parental factors, they found that children growing up in more urban areas with less nature had up to a 55% higher risk of developing mental disorders in adolescence and adulthood. The diagnoses included personality, obsessive-compulsive, depressive, bipolar, schizophrenic, substance use, and eating disorders.

While this “nature deficit disorder” needs research, factors such as increased stress, sensory stimulation, and air pollution likely contribute. Let’s bring nature indoors and to our cities—plant trees, replace grass with plants and flowers. Parents! Send/take children outside to explore nature. Experience more greenery! While they are still developing, give their minds a chance to unwind and their lungs a chance to breathe fresh air.

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