We already knew that a city's green spaces – parks, sports fields and other "green" spaces – played an important role in the physical and mental health of its citizens.
Researchers at the University of Aarhus, Denmark, have discovered that the amount of green space surrounding a person growing up can affect their mental health as an adult – an important revelation in a rapidly urbanizing world .
In a study published Monday in the journal PNAS, the researchers explain how they used satellite data collected from 1985 to 2013 to determine the amount of green space surrounding the homes of just under a million Danes from birth to age 10.
When they compared these data with the mental health history of these Danes, they found that people who grew up surrounded by green spaces saw their risk of developing any of the 16 mental disorders, ranging from from schizophrenia to obsessive compulsive disorder, as much as 55 percent.
It was even after the researchers had adjusted their effects on other risk factors associated with mental health issues, including socioeconomic status and the family's medical history.
Planning in advance
The world is moving towards increasing urbanization. By 2050, researchers estimate that 68% of the world's population will live in cities.
If we want to reduce the risk of these people developing mental health problems, this study suggests that people who plan the cities of tomorrow would be well advised to prioritize the provision of green space for their residents.
"I think it's important to recognize the value of green spaces," said researcher Kristine Engemann. Quartz"Not because they are decorative or pretty, but they can have real benefits for the inhabitants of the city."