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Could exposure to everyday green spaces help treat ADHD? Evidence from children's play settings

Summary


Children with ADHD who regularly play in green settings have milder symptoms than children who play in built outdoor and indoor settings

In the United States, an estimated 4.4 million children have been diagnosed with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). The purpose of this study by Faber Taylor and Kuo was to examine whether routinely experienced greenspaces, those that children visit on a daily or near daily basis, impact children’s ADHD symptoms.

Researchers collected data via an internet survey from 421 parents of 5- to 18-year-old children with ADHD. Parents provided information about where their child played most of the time during the past week and the severity of their child’s ADHD symptoms.

In analyzing the data, Faber Taylor and Kuo found that most children played in one of five settings: 1) Places where there are big trees and grass (Big Trees & Grass); 2) Places indoors where it feels very much indoors (Indoors); 3) Places where there is a lot of open grass (Open Grass); 4) Places that are paved or built (Built Outdoors); and 5) Other. Researchers examined the relationship between these five settings and the severity of children’s ADHD symptoms and found that children who regularly play in green play settings (Big Trees & Grass and Open Grass) have milder ADHD symptoms than children who play in built outdoor and indoor settings. Importantly, Faber Taylor and Kuo found that the impact of green play settings on children’s ADHD symptoms did not vary based on family income or the child’s gender. Interestingly, in examining differences between children with hyperactivity (ADHD) and without hyperactivity (ADD), researchers found that for children with hyperactivity only one of the green play settings, Open Grass, is associated with less severe symptoms, while for children without hyperactivity both green play settings, Open Grass and Big Trees & Grass, are associated with less severe symptoms.

This correlational study provides a valuable contribution to the growing research in this area as it is the first large study to examine linkages between greenspace exposure and ADHD symptoms. Faber Taylor and Kuo conclude their article by discussing the potential role of greenspace exposure to ADHD management and the need for randomized control trials to strengthen our understanding of the relationship between nature and ADHD symptoms.

Citation

Faber Taylor, A., Kuo, F. E. M., (2011). Could exposure to everyday green spaces help treat ADHD? Evidence from children's play settings. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(3), 281-303.

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