Children raised in ‘green’ urban spaces have higher IQs – study

Sustainable and liveable cities need trees and open green spaces. 

Urban planners have been given food for thought by a study in Belgium which found that ‘green’ city spaces can have a significant positive effect on a child’s IQ.

Researchers at the University of Hasselt say that youngsters raised in ‘greener’ environments have a higher intellect than those who are not, based on a series of national studies.

The intention was to investigate whether the ‘level of urbanicity’ can modify the association of residential green space with intelligence and behaviour in children.

‘Direct correlation between access to nature and IQ’

After analysing around 600 children from the ages of 10 to 15 in a range of areas, they found there was a direct correlation between between access to nature and IQ. The researchers also found that just a three per cent increase in the greenness of a child’s neighbourhood raised their IQ score by around 2.6 points.

What is significant about the study is that the pattern was repeated in children from all socio-economic backgrounds, and the researchers say this suggests the relationship between nature and cognitive development is not just related to a child’s upbringing and financial status.

The research team has posited that children who live in greener spaces have lower stress levels, experience less noise pollution and have more opportunities for social play.

‘Relevant for policy makers and urban planners’

“Our results indicate that residential green space may be beneficial for the intellectual and the behavioral development of children living in urban areas. These findings are relevant for policy makers and urban planners to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential,” said the study.

Other studies have previously noted the relationship between cognitive development and the environment, but the Hasselt University paper is the first to directly measure IQ against green space.

The research team was Esmée M. Bijnens, Catherine Derom, Evert Thiery, Steven Weyers and Tim S. Nawrot

Click here to access the study in the Plos Medicine medical journal.

Author: Simon Weedy

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