From escaping the screens to getting some exercise, the benefits of spending time playing outside are pretty obvious, but new research on why kids need green spaces shows that spending time outdoors can have a lifelong impact on kids as they grow up.

A new study conducted by researchers from Aarhus University found that the amount of green space around a child’s home had an impact on the risk of developing a mental disorder later in life. Kids that are surrounded by lesser amounts of green space while growing up have up to a 55 percent higher risk of developing a mental disorder as an adult.

So what does this mean? The more green space a kid grows up with, the better it is for their mental health as adults. The results were the same even when adjusting for other known risk factors, like socio-economic status and a family history of mental disorders.

photo: Gabby Orcutt via Unsplash

“With our dataset, we show that the risk of developing a mental disorder decreases incrementally the longer you have been surrounded by green space from birth and up to the age of 10. Green space throughout childhood is therefore extremely important,” said Kristine Engemann, lead author from the Department of Bioscience and the National Centre for Register-based Research at Aarhus University.

Using satellite data from 1985 to 2013, the researchers mapped green spaces around the homes of nearly one million Danish citizens and compared that information with the risk of developing one of 16 different mental disorders later in life.

Engemann continued, “There is increasing evidence that the natural environment plays a larger role for mental health than previously thought. Our study is important in giving us a better understanding of its importance across the broader population.”

—Shahrzad Warkentin



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