Research has also found lower levels of challenging behaviours, both in wealthier neighbourhoods and poorer neighbourhoods
In recent years, several scientific studies have been published that show the multiple benefits that being in contact with nature has for a child: it favours cognitive development, psychological well-being, the acquisition of values, security, autonomy and better physical health in general.
Now a new study has analyzed how it benefits a child to grow up near green spaces. The extracted result is higher intelligence and lower levels of difficult behaviour.
Analysis of more than 600 children ages 10-15 showed that a 3% increase in the greenery of their neighbourhood raised their IQ score by an average of 2.6 points. The effect was observed in both the richest and the poorest areas.
This is the first research to examine the relationship between continued contact with nature at an early age and IQ. The cause of this benefit is uncertain, but it may be related to lower levels of stress, more play and social contact, or a calmer environment.
There is increasing evidence that green environments are associated with our cognitive function, such as memory skills and attention
The increase in IQ points was particularly significant for children at the lower end of the spectrum, where small increases could make a big difference, the researchers said.
“There is increasing evidence that green environments are associated with our cognitive function, such as memory and attention skills,” explains Tim Nawrot, professor of environmental epidemiology at Hasselt University in Belgium and author of the study.
“What this study adds with IQ is a more robust and well-established clinical measure. I think city builders or urban planners should prioritize investing in green spaces because it is really valuable to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential”.
I think that city builders or urban planners should prioritize investing in green spaces because it is really valuable to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential
The study, published in the journal Plos Medicine, used satellite imagery to measure the level of green in neighbourhoods, including parks, gardens, trees in the streets, and all other vegetation.
The mean IQ score was 105, but the scientists found that 4% of the children with a score below 80 had grown up in areas with low levels of vegetation, while none scored below that level in areas with greater amount of green spaces.
The benefits of more vegetation that were recorded in urban areas were not the same in suburban or rural areas. Nawrot suggested that this may be because those places had enough nature for all the children who live there to benefit.