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Green space improves children’s IQ and behaviour

Words: Huw Morris

Children who live in green urban areas have higher intelligence and lower levels of difficult behaviour, according to research.

An analysis of 620 children aged seven to 15 by environmental epidemiologists at Belgium’s Hasselt University found they had a higher IQ of 2.6 points and scored 2 points lower for difficult behaviour if they lived in areas with increased greenery.

The study also looked at the distribution of total IQ scores in children in ‘high green’ against ‘low green’ areas. Those in low green areas are more likely to have a total IQ of 80 or lower.

Although nearly 12 per cent of children in a high green area had IQ scores in the superior range of 125 or more, only 4.2 per cent of those in low-green areas scored in this range.

The researchers said their findings indicate that residential green space may be beneficial for the intellectual and the behavioural development of children living in urban areas.

These findings are relevant for policymakers and urban planners to create an optimal environment for children to develop their full potential.

Previous studies have already shown that urban green is important for cognitive development in children by improving working memory, attention, and school performance. A study of children in Barcelona had showed that school and total surrounding green space were associated with enhanced progress in working memory and superior working memory and a greater reduction in inattentiveness.

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