Scientists Discover a Major Lasting Benefit of Growing Up Outside the City
It’s only the last few hundred years that we have moved into cities.
The escape of a trip into mountains or a day lying by the beach may feel like an extravagance to city dwellers confined by a traditional work schedule. But exposure to green and blue spaces is far more than just a luxury. For kids, growing up without regular exposure to nature seems to have ripple effects that persist into adulthood, according to research published in International Journal of Environmental Health and Public Health.
Using data from 3,585 people collected across four cities in Europe, scientists from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (also called IS Global) report a strong relationship between growing up away from the natural world and mental health in adulthood. Overall, they found a strong correlation between low exposure to nature during childhood and higher levels of of nervousness and feelings of depression in adulthood. Co-author Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Ph.D., director of IS Global’s urban planning, environment and health initiative, tells Inverse that the relationship between nature and mental health remained strong, even when he adjusted for confounding factors.
“What we found is that the childhood experience of green space can actually predict mental health in later life,” Nieuwenhuijsen says. “The people that reported more exposure to nature actually have better mental health than those that don’t even after we adjust for exposure at the time of the interview, when they are adults.”