Green spaces improving schoolchildren’s mental development

By Kate Hassett

Green spaces improving schoolchildren’s mental development
New studies reveal an increase in short-term memory thanks to green spaces in schools

We all know that sunshine and fresh air improve our quality of life exponentially. The benefits that green spaces provide, especially in urban areas, are paramount to air filtration and wellbeing, but now studies have been released that point to their benefits to mental development in schoolchildren.

The researchers carried out testing on 2,593 children aged seven to ten, spanning across 36 primary schools in Barcelona, every three months for a year. The children’s age was a factor in the study, as their brains were in a stage of rapid development with their mental abilities improving.

The results showed and increase of 22.8% in overall working memory and 15.2% in superior working memory, while inattentiveness decreased by 18.9%.

These results were directly related to the students’ exposure to green spaces. Whether having views of trees instead of buildings, or being outside in an area with abundant greenery, the results increased as the green spaces grew.

This exposure was assessed with the assistance of satellite imagery. Through this, researchers were able to obtain vital information about the whereabouts of green spaces in relation to students’ spaces – be they home or school itself.

Urban pollutants, such as air and noise pollution, have been proven to have detrimental impacts on both the health and cognitive development of those still in rapid stages of growth.

“Our findings suggest a beneficial impact of green space exposure on cognitive development, with part of this effect resulting from buffering against such urban environmental pollutants,”said Dr Payam Dadvand, from the Centre for Research and Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona.

Dr Dadvand stated that by schools increasing their green spaces by amounts recommended in the study, they could see a decrease in the proportion of children with impaired superior working memory development by nearly 9%.

Whilst previous studies have proven correlations between green spaces, mental and physical health, this study is the first to suggest that exposure to these spaces may aid in cognition.

The study, whilst still in early stages will continue it’s research in order to confirm and extrapolate on findings.



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