If you're planning to start a family and are scouting for your "forever home," opt for a greener location. A study says kids who grow up surrounded by trees are less likely to develop mental health problems as adults.
Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark did a study on more than 900,000 people to find out if there was a connection between mental health and a person's living environment. It revealed that kids who grew up in a place where there was hardly any green space were up to 55% more likely to develop mental health disorders as adults.
But what is the connection between greenery and mental health?
Neuroscientist Kelly Lambert from the University of Richmond suggests that since we humans evolved surrounded by green space, being exposed to our native environment may have a big impact on both our physiological and psychological health, too.
Moreover, the simple fact that trees help decrease pollution, encourage exercise, socialization, and play among kids (exposure to a wider variety of microorganisms that strengthen our system was also noted) are enough reason to choose a greener environment.
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The study, so far the largest to investigate the association between green spaces and mental health, was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Other studies also suggest a connection between mood disorders, schizophrenia, cognitive development, and the lack of vegetation in the area while growing up.
To get more accurate results, other factors that might influence data were isolated, such as socieoeconomic status and a family history of mental illness. The subjects were then tested for risks of developing 16 different mental health disorders as adults vis-a-vis the amount of greenery they had access to as kids.
Their research found that risks varied with alcoholism showing the strongest association with a lack of greenery growing up while the risk of intellectual disabilities was hardly present.
Lambert thinks the researchers are on to something important. “It suggests that something as simple as better city planning could have profound impacts on the mental health and well-being of all of us,” she said.