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Urbanization is a double-edged sword. We’ve seen it lead to more housing, more jobs, more specialised services, and a plethora of opportunities for families and businesses. But what is the tradeoff?
Perhaps the most devastating consequence of urbanization is a lack of natural outdoor space for children. This means less contact with nature during a child’s formative years.
Recent research has found an association between low exposure to the natural world in childhood and worse mental health in adulthood.
Participants answered questions about their childhood experiences with nature - for example whether they used to play outdoors or go for walks in greenery.
Results indicate that those who scored lower on mental health tests also had less exposure to nature during childhood. This was the case irrespective of how much time they spent in nature as adults. It appears there is something particularly important about being exposed to nature during the early stages of life.
Perhaps the saddest part of this study is that participants who scored lower on mental health tests tended to place less significance on natural spaces. This suggests there is still a long way to go when it comes to influencing attitudes towards nature.
Despite our culture’s fascination with technology and urban living, we can all acknowledge that nature possesses an underrated, soothing power. We all have experience of how refreshing it can be to breathe clean air, walk in the woods, and consume healthy greens.
Why not visit a park after work, go for a short hike or visit friends or family who live in the countryside? Perhaps arrange to visit a botanical garden during the weekend? Plan ahead and find ways to show your kids the beauty of nature on a regular basis.
If you live in an urban area, it’s still possible for kids to experience nature through indoor gardening, watching plants develop. Smart indoor gardens offer a perfect opportunity for this.