People who were out in nature more as children have better mental health as adults, research finds.
Playing in the backyard, hiking and just being in nature as a child are all linked to lower depression and anxiety later on.
Growing up experiencing the natural environment helps people understand its benefit.
Those not exposed to nature as children are less likely to appreciate its benefits as an adult, the study also found.
Being in nature has been linked to both better mental and physical health.
Unfortunately, 73 percent of Europeans live in urban areas with little access to green spaces.
As populations worldwide continue to urbanise, the number of people who can easily get out into nature is likely to decrease.
The study included 3,585 people of all ages in four European cities.
All were asked how often they were out in nature as children, whether for purposeful activities like hiking or just playing in the backyard.
Those who had not enjoyed nature as children did not appear to understand its benefits, said Ms Myriam Preuss, the study’s first author:
“In general, participants with lower childhood exposure to nature gave a lower importance to natural environments.”
The main result showed that being in nature more as a child was linked to better mental health as an adult.
Dr Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, study co-author, said:
“Many children in Europe lead an indoors lifestyle, so it would be desirable to make natural outdoor environments available, attractive and safe for them to play in.
We make a call on policymakers to improve availability of natural spaces for children and green school yards,”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2013) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health (Preuss et al., 2019).