Exposure to green space at a young age may aid children’s cognitive development, according to a new study in the journal PNAS.
Researchers, who evaluated data on nearly 2,600 Barcelona schoolchildren between the ages of 7 and 10, found that exposure to green space was correlated with improved working memory and decreased inattentiveness. The results were most remarkable when there was more green space at school.
Part of the association can be connected to traffic pollution, which accounted for somewhere between 20% and 65% the effect of being exposed to green space. Green space at school may also increase physical activity and reduce noise, according to the study. Overall, a significant increase in green space at school could end the impairment of nearly 9% of students with impaired working memory, according to the researchers.
The researchers used satellite data to assess the greenness of both children’s homes and their schools. Overall, a significant increase in exposure to green spaces resulted in a 5% increase in the development of children’s working memory after a one-year period, as well as a 1% decrease in inattentiveness.
Previous research has shown associations between green space and mental and physical health but this is the first study to suggest that exposure to green spaces may aid cognition. The research, still in early stages, needs further work to confirm it.