A recently published study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry is the first attempt to connect neighborhood greenspace to aggressive behavior in adolescents. The more green, the less aggressive behavior. Having more greenspace within 1,000 m of the child’s residence proved to be equivalent to about 2 to 2.5 years of age-related maturity. It’s the first epidemiological evidence that supports the benefits of neighborhood greenspace. The positive effect remained significant even after accounting for gender, race, neighborhood quality, temperature, traffic density, proximity to freeways, maternal smoking in pregnancy and maternal depression.
Why does green work? The authors have a few ideas. Greenspace may reduce stress and improve mental health for children coping with parental depression. Greenspace makes people want to be outside and engage in physical activity. Physical activity boosts self-esteem. Greenspace also may positively affect air quality by lowering pollution and noise. Finally they include the idea that urban living removes biodiversity. Greenspace fosters biodiversity, including microorganisms that may be important in healthy human development.
The study looked at 1,287 participants in a cohort of twins and triplets born from 1990 to 1995 in Southern California. The period 2000-2012 was studied (age 9-18). Greenspace was assessed by satellite images. The authors are careful to point out that the work needs to be replicated so that it may be used to inform public health policy and clinical outcome.
Aggressive adolescents often turn into aggressive adults. Intervening early in childhood to ensure access to greenspace may have important long-term public health and societal benefits. Could it be as simple as planting more plants to make the world a calmer, happier place?
Environmental Determinants of Aggression in Adolescents: Role of Urban Neighborhood Greenspace by Diana Younan, MPH, Catherine Tuvblad, PhD, Lianfa Li, PhD, Jun Wu, PhD, Fred Lurmann, MS, Meredith Franklin, PhD, MSc, Kiros Berhane, PhD, MS, Rob McConnell, MD, Anna H. Wu, PhD, Laura A. Baker, PhD, MA, Jiu-Chiuan Chen, MD, ScD, Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, July 2016, Volume 55, Issue 7, Pages 591–601.
NewTerrain August 15, 2016