Urban residents may be more likely than their rural-dwelling counterparts to suffer from mental-health issues, according to several recent studies. Access to nature, researchers explain, boosts mood and longevity.
A new, large-scale Danish study, published in PNAS, associates growing up near green space with a reduced risk — up to 55 percent lower — of developing psychiatric disorders in adulthood.
Aarhus University scientists viewed satellite images to evaluate the amount of green space surrounding the childhood homes of nearly 1 million Danes, from the year of their birth, between 1985 and 2003, to age 10. They then compared this with data on the subsequent diagnosis of various mental-health disorders among this group.
“We show that the risk of developing a mental disorder decreases incrementally the longer you have been surrounded by green space from birth and up to the age of 10,” explains lead researcher Kristine Engemann, PhD. “Access to green space throughout childhood is therefore extremely important.”
With more than half of the world’s population living in urban areas — and migratory trends expected to push that number to near 70 percent by 2050 — the findings bear essential lessons for city planners and other government officials about the significance of ample green space.