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City Youth Have Better Mental Health if They Live Near Nature

Person hiking through woods with a backpack

Adolescents who have access to nature daily have better brain development and have a lower risk of emotional and behavioural problems, according to recent research published in Nature Sustainability.  

Looking at those aged nine to 15 at 31 different schools across London, England, the study authors focused on how natural environments can impact cognitive development, mental health and overall well-being. 

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For their insights, researchers examined satellite data, noting the kids’ proximity to “green spaces” such as woods, meadows and parks, and “blue spaces” such as rivers, lakes and the sea. 

Adjusting for other variables such as age, parental occupation, and more, they noted that green space positively impacted mental health, underscoring the importance of time spent outdoors. 

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The study could not pinpoint the reasons for the link, and also didn’t adjust for socio-economic status, so it could also be that those with greater access to green spaces were also generally financially better off, alleviating other potential stressors such as food insecurity (the researchers noted that more than half of the participants had parents who were in managerial or other professional occupations). 

Either way, the study underscores how nature can play an important role to well-being and mental health. 

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