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Does access to green space impact the mental well-being of children: A systematic review


Access to nature can promote the mental well-being of children

This systematic review of the literature examined the association between access to green space and the mental well-being of children. Selection criteria included original research focusing on children (0-18 years) published between 2012 and 2017. Twelve articles fitting these criteria were identified. Three additional articles – published prior to 2012 — were included in the review, as they were often cited as important early research on nature-related benefits for children.

One of the early-research articles published in 2004 explored green outdoor settings as a potential treatment for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Findings of this study, along with other studies included in the review, indicated that access to natural environments decreased the symptoms of ADHD. Another early study (published in 2003) found that access to nature moderated the impact of stressful events in children’s lives. Other studies in the review reported similar results. The third early study (published in 2002) found that a view of green space outside the homes of inner city girls in deprived neighborhoods can increase the girls’ self-discipline. This finding was supported by other research indicating that access to green space was associated with a reduction in behavior concerns. Three of the studies used the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire to measure the impact of nature on children’s well-being. Findings indicated that high quality and quantity of green space was associated with less total difficulties, fewer emotional symptoms, fewer peer relationship problems, and better child well-being.

The overall findings of this review indicate that access to natural environments can benefit children in various ways, including improvements in confidence, social interactions, cognitive development, academic achievement, and emotional well-being. The implications of this research-based evidence apply to various sectors of society, including urban planners, health practitioners, educators, and families. Specific recommendations are offered for nursing professionals with pediatric patients. Such recommendations include writing prescriptions for outdoor play, advocating for natural playspaces in the community, and collaborating with multiple disciplines and stakeholders in implementing initiatives connecting children with nature. While this review provides strong evidence of the benefits of access to nature for children, additional research addressing both benefits and barriers to green space access is needed.


McCormick, R., (2017). Does access to green space impact the mental well-being of children: A systematic review. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 37, 3-7.


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