Living close to woodland helps children's mental health and development, a new study has found.

Iran PressSci & Tech: City children who have daily exposure to woodland have better cognitive development and a lower risk of emotional and behavioral problems, according to a new study published in Nature Sustainability.

Researchers studied 3,568 adolescents aged 9 to 15 at 31 schools across London over four years to examine the associations between natural environments and cognitive development, mental health and overall well-being, CNN reported.

Using vegetation satellite data, researchers calculated adolescents' daily exposure to "green space," like woods, meadows and parks, and "blue space," including rivers, lakes and the sea, within 50 meters (164 feet), 100 meters (328 feet), 250 meters (820 feet) and 500 meters (1,640 feet) of their home and school.

Higher daily exposure to woodland was associated with higher scores for cognitive development -- measured through a series of memory-based tasks -- and a 17% lower risk of emotional and behavioral problems two years later, researchers said, adding that they adjusted for other variables, such as age, ethnic background, gender, parental occupation, type of school and air pollution.

Exposure to green space was associated with a beneficial contribution to young people's cognitive development, researchers explained. The same associations were not seen with exposure to blue space -- though the sample of children studied generally had low access to it, researchers noted in the study published Monday.

Lead author Mikaël Maes said that, while the team had established an association between woodlands and better cognitive development and mental health, there is no causal link between the two -- something that could be studied in the future.

Researchers also noted that more than half of participants had parents who had a managerial or professional occupation, meaning that adolescents in other socio-economic groups could be underrepresented in the study. Pupils with special educational needs could also react differently than peers represented in the research.


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