Children Who Spend More Time in Nature Become Happier Adults, Study Suggests
The study observed 900,000 Danish people from 1985 to 2013
A new Danish study suggests that spending time in nature is measurably better for your mental health, for both the short and long term.
The study observed 900,000 Danish people from 1985 to 2013, taking into consideration their education, income, family history of mental illness, and how much green space surrounded them growing up.
The full study can be read here on the PNAS website.
The study found that “children who grew up with the lowest levels of green space had up to 55% higher risk of developing a psychiatric disorder independent from effects of other known risk factors.”
The study also suggests that nature has a calming and normalizing effect on humans, and effects things like the sleep cycle.
But modern living has been blamed for separating people from nature and the body’s natural cycles.
According to Green Child Magazine:
The findings indicated that the “higher pace of life and social stress in the most urbanized areas could create a stronger need for restorative environments such as urban green space.”
But don’t sell your condo and move your child to the country just yet.
The study found the participants didn’t necessarily have to live in a forest to enjoy the mental health benefits.
Those who lived within a reasonable distance from public parks, urban green spaces, or wilderness areas – and who use them often – can reap the same health benefits.
The study also found, “Stronger association of cumulative green space presence during childhood compared with single-year green space presence suggests that presence throughout childhood is important.”
According to an article on Forbes:
A 2006 American Scientist study on perceptual pleasure and the brain chronicles how viewing stimulating, dynamic natural scenes triggers an increase in interactions of the mu (opioid) receptors in the brain’s visual cortex—making viewing nature a physically pleasurable experience compared to looking at a blank wall or concrete-covered street (Biederman and Vessel 2006).
Conversely, being in a high-stress environment such as on a highly-trafficked street, will cause the brain to signal the production of cortisol by the adrenal glands.
Elevated cortisol interferes with learning and memory, weakens immune function and bone density, and increases weight gain, blood pressure, and heart disease (Franke, Children, 2014).
It also impacts mental health and resiliency by disrupting brain development in children, triggering emotional problems, depressive disorders, and negatively affecting attention and inhibitory control (Shern et al., Mental Health America, 2014).
Toxic stress has been called public health enemy number one, and time in nature can be an effective counterbalance.