According to the findings of a new study, children’s intelligence is boosted if they grow up in a greener urban environment. Such upbringing also helps to lower the levels of difficult behavior among such children.
The study conducted on more than 600 children aged between 10 and 15 years showed that a 3 per cent increase in the greenness of their neighbourhood also helped to enhance the IQ scores of the children by an average of 2.6 points. The impact was seen irrespective of rich and poor neighborhoods.
While there have been previous studies that have established that greater green spaces c n enhance various aspects of cognitive development in children, this is the firsts study that has examined the impact of increased greenery on the IQ of children. While the research did not examine the cause of such an outcome, researcher have linked it to possible lower stress levels, more play and social contact and even the possibility of impact of a quieter environment.
The researchers said that for those children at the lower end of the spectrum, the finding of the increase in IQ points was particularly significant. This is because at that level, even small increases could make a big difference.
“There is more and more evidence that green surroundings are associated with our cognitive function, such as memory skills and attention,” said Tim Nawrot, a professor of environmental epidemiology at Hasselt University in Belgium, where the study was conducted.
“What this study adds with IQ is a harder, well-established clinical measure. I think city builders or urban planners should prioritise investment in green spaces because it is really of value to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential.”
Satellite images were used to measure the level of greenness in neighbourhoods, including parks, gardens, street trees and all other vegetation, in the study that was published in the journal Plos Medicine.
While the average IQ score was 105, the researchers found that about 4 per cent of children growing up in areas with low levels of greenery scored below 80. None of the children scored below 80 who were brought up in areas that had more greenery.
The research however showed that the impact or the benefits of more greenery that were found for children residing in urban areas was not replicated in suburban or rural areas. According to Nawrot, this could be because the rural places already had enough greenery for all children living there to benefit.
The wealth and education levels of the children’s parents were also taken into account in the study by the researchers and the outcome busted the myth that those families who are better placed to support children always tend to have more access to green space.
The quality of the research was praised by Dr Mathew White, an environmental psychologist at Exeter University in the UK, who was not part of the study team.
“I’m always wary of the term intelligence as it has a problematic history and unfortunate associations,” he said. “But, if anything, this study might help us move away from seeing intelligence as innate – it could be influenced by environment, and I think that is much more healthy.”
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)