As we all know trees are critical to our global health and survival as they provide the oxygen we breathe. But trees are found to be much more that just the provider of oxygen as it has been found that trees may also be very influential for our individual health, both mentally and physically.
In a new study which was published in Nature Sustainability scientists found that children between the ages of 9 and 15 who spent significant time around trees benefited cognitively in several ways.
During the study scientists have conducted their research on 3,568 students in London. The study tracked cognitive performance and mental health over the early adolescent years. The study found that children who has spent time in woodland areas showed improved cognitive performance and better mental health. The study also interestingly explained that children who spent more time in grassy or lake areas did not show the same benefits as those in woodlands.
The results showed trees specifically may be a protective factor for children as they grow. Apart from this study, several others have also proven that green space is beneficial to children and adults, while the new study proves that trees may be an important factor contributing to these health benefits.
Even though it is still unclear to why nature may boost cognition, scientists suggest that trees may calm our minds with their pleasing “fractal” patterned branches and that is may increase gray matter, or prompt changes in the amygdala which regulates emotion.
But even though the study found that trees improve brain development and health, there are still other factors that can play a role, for example one factor which is difficult to disentangle from the benefits of trees and nature to children and adults is privilege.
Socioeconomic status and free time are also factors which can determine access to green space, adequate nutrition, and early childhood education. The study also found that more than half of the children studied in London came from a family with parents in managerial or professional occupations, which means there may be other factor which also plays a role in boosting children's cognitive development.
What is likely, however, is that access to green space can be beneficial to all and should be included equitably in urban planning.
Another example that trees do provide several benefits is the feeling of joy and freedom when one is surrounded by nature.