International researchers identified that exposure to natural environments during childhood is essential to develop an optimal psychological state in adulthood
The adults who during their childhood had more contact with natural spaces could have a better mental health than those who were less exposed to nature, according to a study of the Institute of Global Health of Barcelona (ISGlobal).
The study, published by the International Journal of Environment Research and Public Health, has been prepared based on data from nearly 3,600 people living in Barcelona (Spain), Doetinchem (Netherlands), Kaunas (Lithuania) and Stoke-on- Trent (United Kingdom).
The researchers of the ISGlobal have wanted to verify the impact of the green and blue spaces in the mental well-being and the physical vitality of the population.
Until now, exposure to outdoor natural spaces has been associated with health benefits, such as better cognitive development and better mental and physical well-being, but few had explored the impact of exposure to natural environments during childhood in the mental health and vitality in adulthood.
In addition, studies on green spaces – gardens, forests or urban parks – are more abundant than in the case of blue spaces – canals, ponds, streams, rivers, lakes or beaches.
This new work, which is part of the PHENOTYPE project, is based on the responses of the participants to a questionnaire on the frequency of use of natural spaces during their childhood, including both intentional visits – for example, trips to the mountains – as well as unintended-playing in the garden at home.
They were also asked about the quantity, use and satisfaction of natural spaces around their home, as well as the importance they give it today. The mental health of the participants – level of nervousness and feelings of depression in the last four weeks – and vitality – level of energy and fatigue – was evaluated from a psychological test.
The vegetation index around the house in adult life was estimated from satellite images. The results showed that adults who had exposed less to natural spaces during childhood showed worse results in mental health tests, compared to those who had more exposure during childhood.