Living in a dwelling that is close to greenspace reduces youngsters’ risk for behaviors associated with neurobehavioral problems. This relationship varies with the type of behavior, the child’s age, and the proximity of the greenspace, according to a study conducted in an ongoing prospective birth cohort.
Investigators estimated greenspace exposure using satellite-derived images of children’s homes that were translated into a vegetation index. Using a validated instrument for assessing a child’s adaptive behaviors in the community and home setting (the Behavioral Assessment System for Children, BASC-2), investigators assessed the risk for problematic behaviors at ages 7 and 12 years in 562 and 313 children, respectively. Analyses accounted for varying degrees of proximity to greenspace and adjusted for neighborhood deprivation, maternal education, race, and sex.
Living in a home with more nearby residential greenspace was associated with lower risk of conduct problems at age 7 years and, at age 12 years, of anxiety problems, along with a lower risk for depression and somatization problems. These effects varied somewhat with the distance from the child’s home to the greenspace (Madzia J, et al. J Pediatr. 2019;207:233-240).
Thoughts from Dr Burke
It is unclear why living near greenspace would improve a child’s mental health. The authors suggest a list of possible mechanisms, including increased physical activity, more social ties due to shared space for building community, and reduced air and noise pollution. Whatever the mechanism, the feelings generated by a walk in the park at the end of a work day make the observation seem pretty plausible.