Science

Access to nature promotes better cognitive development in adolescents

Spending time in nature has multiple health benefits, including for teenagers so they don’t get “bulbous”. Researchers at University College London and the New South Wales Law School have shown that daily access to a natural environment near schools and homes for adolescents aged 9 to 15 improves their cognitive development.

Until now, past studies have focused on the benefits of a natural environment on cognitive development and adult mental health. This work, published in the review Nature Sustainability, looked at 3,568 adolescents in 31 schools around London between 2014 and 2018. Scientists tested adolescents for cognitive development, mental health, and psychological and social well-being. They then ran these tests again at the end of the study. Comparing the most exposed group to the least exposed group to a natural environment, the researchers observed a 2.14% improvement in cognitive development in the most exposed group. “Previous studies have found positive associations between exposure to nature in urban settings, cognitive development, and mental health. The reason for these health benefits remains unclear, especially in adolescents.“Says in a press release Mikaël Maes, first author of the study. This improvement may at first glance seem negligible due to the small percentage mentioned, it varies however depending on the ecosystem studied.

Forest baths

Using satellite images, the researchers differentiated the ecosystems present near the places where adolescents live.

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