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Being around green areas as a child reduces the risk of developing mental disorders by 55% in adulthood. WHO says that depression already impairs more than 300 million people worldwide

Research developed by Aarhus University (Denmark) and published in the scientific journal PNAS says that there’s a direct relationship between being around nature and good mental health. The article shows that children growing up in green environments have 55% less chance of developing mental disorders during their lifetime.

The researchers used a 1985-2013 database from satellite and mapped green spaces surrounding about one million Dane households. The data were then crossed with the incidence of 16 different mental disorders in adulthood.

“With our set of data, we show that the risk of developing a mental disorder gradually decreases if the person has been surrounded by green spaces from birth to age 10. Therefore, green space during childhood is extremely important,” Kristine Engemann explains, study leader at the Department of Bioscience from the Danish university.

The conclusion from the survey points out two justifications for the nature-mental health relationship. One of them is the fact that elements typical of urban agglomerations such as noise, air pollution and poor socioeconomic conditions increase the risk of mental disorders. Another factor is that greener spaces help to have more social interactions and more physical activities, which reflect in childhood cognitive development.

WHO: depression impairs 300 million people worldwide

The World Health Organization (WHO) already classifies depression as “the leading cause of ill health and disability worldwide.” According to the UN body, there are more than 300 million people affected, and, as a result, an annual economic loss beyond the US$ 1 trillion mark.

In one decade, between 2005 and 2015, depression incidence increased 18%. The disease hits youth mostly: one in every five adolescents experiences some level of mental health issue. In this age group, the WHO says the risk of suicide is the highest – currently, it’s the second leading cause of death in individuals between 15 and 29 years old.

Mental health risks are even higher due to lack of proper treatment. Even in developed countries, 50% of depressed individuals do not receive any type of treatment. Overall, only 3% of government health budgets are invested in mental health, ranging from 1% in underdeveloped economies to 5% in developed nations, informs WHO.

“The pathology treatment usually includes psychotherapy or antidepressants – both methods can also be combined,” says the entity.

“The coupling between mental health and access to green space in your local area is something that should be considered even more in urban planning to ensure a greener and healthier cities and improve the mental health of urban residents in the future,” recommends Jens-Christian Svenning, co-author of the Danish study.

Content published in April 18, 2019

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