Children who spend more time outdoors grow up to become happier adults

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We already know spending time outdoors can significantly improve our health. But did you know that it also had long lasting beneficial effects on our mental health?

  • Sunlight is one of the best sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D helps us fight against osteoporosis, cancer, depression, and heart attacks.
  • You’ll get more exercise. We are naturally more active just by being outside. We’re less likely to be on our devices which distracts us from being active. Being active helps reduce stress, ward off depression, boost self esteem, improve sleep, strengthen our hearts, increase our energy levels, lower blood pressure, improve muscle tone and strength, strengthen our bones, reduce body fat, and make us healthier overall.
  • You’ll be happier. Light naturally elevates our mood. English scientists have discovered that even just five minutes of exposure to green open spaces resulted in an increase in self esteem and boost in mood.
  • Your concentration will improve. Studies have shown that children with ADHD who performed activities outdoors were able to focus better than children who performed the same activity indoors. It significantly reduced their symptoms and increased their focus.
  • Your body may heal faster. In this study, spinal surgery patients were less stressed and used less pain medication during their recovery period when exposed to sunlight.

But there is also research that backs up how green space has long term benefits for growing kids.

Researchers from the Aarhus University in Denmark produced a paper on how children who grew up in natural environments had a lower risk of developing psychiatric disorders from adolescence into adulthood. They examined satellite data on almost one million Danish 10-year-olds born from 1985 to 2002. They found exposure to green space during childhood lowered their risk of many mental disorders. It promoted mental health, encouraged exercise, improved social coherence, built better cognition and brain development, and improved immune functions.

They found that substance abuse disorders and intellectual disability risks were mostly associated with parents’ socioeconomic status. They didn’t see much change in that regardless of environment. What was really interesting was that mood disorders, depressive disorders, neurotic disorders, and stress-related disorders were much less frequent with children who grew up with more green space.

Kristine Engemann, the lead author of the study, wants to replicate the study elsewhere. She plans on continuing her research by comparing the relationship between mental health and other types of environments. For example, she wants to explore whether being close to the ocean might have similar benefits as well. One thing is for sure, the benefits of being outdoors is not just short term.

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