HealthDay News—Living around high levels of green space during childhood is associated with a lower risk for a wide spectrum of psychiatric disorders later in life, according to a study published online Feb 25 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Kristine Engemann, PhD, from Aarhus University in Denmark, and colleagues investigated the prospective association between green space and mental health in the Danish population. High-resolution satellite data were used to calculate the normalized difference vegetation index within a 210 × 210 m² area around each person’s place of residence for 943,027 people from birth to age 10 years (between 1985 and 2003).

The researchers found that risk for subsequent mental illness for those who lived with the lowest level of green space during childhood was up to 55% higher across various disorders vs those who lived with the highest level of green space. Even after adjusting for urbanization, socioeconomic factors, parental history of mental illness, and parental age, this association remained. It appears as if the presence of green space throughout childhood is important, as there was a stronger association of cumulative green space presence during childhood versus single-year green space.

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“Our findings affirm that integrating natural environments into urban planning is a promising approach to improve mental health and reduce the rising global burden of psychiatric disorders,” the authors write.

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