Power of nature is profound

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ITHACA, N.Y. – A house surrounded by nature seems to help boost a child’s attention capabilities, a study by a Cornell University researcher suggests.

“When children’s cognitive functioning was compared before and after they moved from poor- to better-quality housing that had more green spaces around, profound differences emerged in their attention capacities even when the effects of the improved housing were taken into account,” said Nancy Wells, with the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell.

Wells also conducted a study that suggests the mental health of adults improves with a move from poor to quality housing.

‘Greenness’ gains. Although the green-space study sample was small – only 17 children – the statistical findings were significant, said Wells.

Children in the study who had the greatest gains in terms of “greenness” between their old and new homes showed the greatest improvements in functioning. “The findings suggest that the power of nature is indeed profound,” she said.

“The results suggest that the natural environment may play a far more significant role in the well-being of children within a housing environment than has previously been recognized,” Wells said. She notes that simple interventions, such as preserving existing trees, planting new trees or maintaining grassy areas, would likely have a significant impact on children’s welfare.

Home sweet home. “We consistently found that housing quality can affect mental health, in that better-quality housing was related to lower levels of psychological distress, while statistically taking into account the effects of income,” said Wells.

“The research suggests that significantly better housing quality is linked to improvements in psychological well-being.”

The researchers concluded that improved housing quality can benefit mental health.

In addition, follow-up interviews conducted two years later revealed that the women’s levels of psychological distress remained low, suggesting that the improvements in mental health are unlikely to be a mere “honeymoon” effect.

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