Mental health benefits of interactions with nature in children and teenagers: a systematic review

It is commonly believed that nature has positive impacts on children’s health, including physical, mental, and social dimensions. This paper systematically reviewed how accessibility to, exposure to, and engagement with nature affects the mental health of children and teenagers. The review was conducted by an interdisciplinary team of HEAL researchers, including Suzanne Tillmann (lead author), Dr. Danielle TobinDr. William Avison, and Dr. Jason Gilliland (senior author and principal investigator). Of the 35 papers included in the review, the majority focused on emotional well-being and ADD/ADHD. About half of all reported findings revealed statistically significant positive relationships between nature and mental health outcomes, and almost half reported no statistical significance. The findings support the contention that nature positively influences children’s and teenagers mental health; however, in most cases, additional research with more rigorous study designs and objective measures of both nature and mental health outcomes are needed to confirm these relationships. More research is also needed to assess outcomes like anxiety and depression as we see them becoming more common place among this age group. Interacting with nature can and should be prescribed as an accessible way to help potentially combat or prevent negative mental health outcomes.

“Mental Health Benefits of Children’s Interactions with Nature: A Systematic Review” was published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

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Keywords: children; nature; mental health; well-being


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