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Greenness and Greyness – The Role of Nature in Children Health


It is no news that regular exposure to nature (gardens, forests, urban parks) has a lot of positive effects. But that contact with greenness from an early age will help to grow healthier adults has just recently emerged. In fact, growing next to large green areas allows you to become healthier physically, but above all mentally.

The latest confirmation comes from a study conducted by researchers at the Institute for Global Health Promotion in Barcelona. The researchers administered several psychological tests to a group of 3,600 adults from four different European cities. They deduced that adults who had spent less time outdoors during their childhood achieved lower scores in the tests.

Children Grow Healthier in Greenness

The researchers asked questions about exposure to greenery during childhood to the people involved in the study. The participants indicated how often they went hiking in the woods and visited city parks, as well as playing in the yard. Those who had spent more time in contact with nature as children were also more attentive and sensitive to green spaces.

Afterwards, the researchers asked the participants questions about their experience in the month prior to the tests. In particular, they focused on nervousness, depression, energy levels and fatigue. The lowest scores were found among those who had spent less time outdoors as children.

This is a significant result according to the researchers, especially since 73% of the population lives in urbanised areas. According to the researchers, it is important that these figures are also taken into account in school planning. In fact, too many children spend a good part of the day indoors.

Child-Friendly Cities

The conclusions of this study match those of research published a few months ago in the journal “Environmental Health“. The research involved a group of school-age children living a few kilometers from a city. It was in a suburban area located far from the sea and with many dwellings, commercial buildings and public housing. The children completed a questionnaire for the evaluation of respiratory, allergic and general symptoms. The researchers then cross-referenced the results with individual indicators of environmental exposure to both “greenness” and “greyness” (indicator of cemented areas) and nitrogen dioxide.

The various data showed a connection between poor confidence in public greenness and a higher risk of nasal symptoms (stuffy nose, runny nose and itching). Children living in continuous urban areas also reported more eye and general symptoms (such as headache and fatigue) than those living in less cemented areas. Moreover, proximity to a high-traffic road had increased the risk of eye symptoms (burning, tearing, feeling of sand in the eyes) and nasal symptoms.

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