People who have often experienced nature during their childhood are less likely to suffer from depression or anxiety in adulthood.
The benefits of the outdoors on our health are no more to prove. But according to a new study conducted in four European cities and published in the International Journal of Environmental Health, exposure to nature during childhood could be passed on to adulthood. Specifically, adults who grew up near green areas would have better mental health than adults from urban areas.
To reach these conclusions, the researchers conducted an epidemiological study based on a questionnaire completed by 3585 adults aged between 18 and 75 years old. Participants reported information about their childhood, including the frequency of their contact with nature. They were also subjected to a psychological test to assess their state of mental health.
Volunteers who reported having little contact with nature as children were those with the highest rates of depression or anxiety. Noise and crowds, typical of large cities, have been identified as probable causes of these symptoms.
Improve access to natural spaces in cities
Conducted by scientists from the Institute for Global Health in Barcelona (Spain) and the University of Maastricht (The Netherlands), the study also shows less sensitivity to nature among adults who grew up in cities. Although the study has certain limitations, in particular due to the fact that these data were collected from self-reports and that childhood memories may be biased, the authors of the study insist on the need to improve access to green spaces for children and adults.
"Many children in Europe lead an indoor lifestyle, so it would be desirable to make natural outdoor environments available, attractive and safe for them to play," says Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, co-author of Study and Director of Urban Planning, Environment and Health Initiative (ISGlobal).
Last February, a Danish study conducted by the University of Aarhus and published in the American journal PNAS presented similar results. According to this research, children growing up in a green environment are up to 55% less likely to develop mental disorders when they reach adulthood.