Children who live near green spaces have stronger attention spans, study finds

BARCELONA — Being surrounded by foliage or green spaces might help boost a child’s ability to concentrate, a new study finds.

Researchers at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) in Spain evaluated 1,500 children over the course of a decade, hoping to determine how proximity to nearby “greenness” affected an adolescent’s attention span at different points of development.

Little boy playing in leaves
A new study finds that children who live near forests or other types of green spaces have stronger attention spans.

They found that those who had resided near an abundance of vegetation scored better on subsequent attention tests at ages five and seven, which “underline[s] the importance of green areas in cities for children’s health and brain development,” argues lead author Payam Dadvand in a press release.

Previous research conducted by ISGlobal showed that green spaces surrounding schools could help enhance cognitive development, although this inquiry represented “the first time that the impact of lifelong residential exposure to green spaces on attention capacity in children has been studied,” according to Dadvand.

This most recent inquiry also provides more backing for the previous finding that exposure to natural surroundings promotes brain development.

While the general effects of greenery on cognitive development are now less questioned, “the possibility that exposure to different types of vegetation might have different impacts on neurodevelopment remains an open question,” acknowledges study coordinator Jordi Sunyer.

To test this theory, Sunyer says that future research could be conducted in settings with varied climates and vegetation.

Ultimately, “green spaces in cities promote social connections and physical activity and reduce exposure to air pollution and noise, and are therefore essential for the development of the future generations’ brains,” the researchers conclude.

As much as some gravitate toward futuristic architecture, trees will never be made obsolete.

The study’s findings were published last month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.


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