At this point it seems the evidence is overwhelming—new studies seem to arrive on our desks each week that suggest simply spending time in green spaces can improve our health, both mentally and physically. As avid outdoors people, we instinctively know that, but it’s always nice to have science confirm our suspicions. And recently, researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark published yet another study about the outside/good health connection that may provide the most conclusive evidence yet. Getting outside, walking around, hearing the rustle of trees, feeling the wind on our face, the rain on our backs, the sun on our skin—the more we do that as kids, the happier we are as adults, their study suggests. And this was one heck of a study.
From 1985 until 2013, the researchers combed data from one million Danish residents. They looked at everything from income to educational level, history of familial mental illness, as well as how much green space surrounded where the residents had grown up. Because they had so much data to work with, the researchers were able to try and control for socioeconomic factors—kids who grow up wealthier probably have more access to green space, for example. Yet even factoring those discrepancies in, researchers found that being raised surrounded by nature as a child meant a 55 percent lower incidence of developing mental health issues as adults. Even better, it seemed that the more time children spent in nature, the better as far as mental health outcomes were concerned.
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