Children who grow up in greener up to 55% less risk of developing various mental disorders later in life, according to a new study from the University of Aarhus in Denmark that emphasizes the need to design green and healthy cities for the future. Today, a growing proportion of the world's population lives in cities, and the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that more than 450 million people are living with some mental disorder; and the trend is on the rise.
According satellite data from 1985 to 2013, researchers at the University of Aarhus mapped out the presence of green spaces around homes of nearly one million Danes and compared these data to the risk of developing one of 16 mental disorders later in life.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shows that children surrounded by large amounts of green space in childhood have up to 55% less risk of developing a mental disorder, even after adjusting for other known risk factors. , such as socioeconomic status, urbanization and family history of mental disorders.
"Our data are unique, we had the opportunity to use a large amount of data from the Danish records of, among other things, the residential location and the diagnosis of diseasesand compare them with satellite images that reveal the extent of green space around each individual as they grow, "says researcher Kristine Engemann, a postdoctoral fellow at the Department of Biosciences and the National Research Center at the University of California, Aarhus.
Researchers know that, for example, noise, air pollution, infections and poor socioeconomic conditions they increase the risk of developing a mental disorder. On the other hand, other studies show that living in environments with more green spaces creates greater social cohesion and increases the level of physical activity of people and can improve the cognitive development of children. All of these are factors that can have an impact on people's mental health.
"With our data set, we have shown that the risk of developing a mental disorder gradually declines as you are surrounded by green spaces from birth to 10 years. Therefore, green space during childhood is extremely important, "explains Kristine Engemann.
As the researchers adjusted the data to other known risk factors for the development of a mental disorder, they see their findings as a solid indication of a close relationship between green space, urban life and mental disorders. "There is increasing evidence that the natural environment plays a greater role in mental health than we thought, and our study is important so that we can better understand its importance in the general population," says Engemann.
This knowledge has important implications for sustainable urban planning, which is important because a growing proportion of the world's population lives in cities. "The link between mental health and access to green spaces in the local area is something that should be further considered in urban planning to ensure greener cities and improve the mental health of urban residents in the future."advises co-author Professor Jens-Christian Svenning of the Department of Biosciences at the University of Aarhus.