< Back to previous page


Early life exposure to residential green space impacts cognitive functioning in children aged 4 to 6 years

Journal Contribution - Journal Article

Introduction: During early childhood, neuronal networks are highly susceptible to environmental factors. Previous research suggests that green space exposure is beneficial for cognitive functioning. Here, we investigate the associations between residential green space exposure and behavioral problems and cognitive development in children aged four to six years. Method: We included children participating in the ENVIRONAGE birth cohort. Residential green spaces were calculated based on high-resolution land cover data within several buffers (50-1,000 m) around the residence. The children's behavior was assessed with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) among 411 children. In addition, to evaluate cognitive function, 456 children completed four tasks of the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB). We used multivariate logistic and linear regression models while accounting for potential confounders and covariables. Results: An interquartile (IQR) increase of residential green space within 50 m was associated with a 38% (95% CI: 56;14) lower odds of a child having hyperactivity problems. Additionally, we found a beneficial influence of residential green space in close proximity (50-100 m) on the attention and psychomotor speed, represented by the Motor Screening Task. For example, we found a decrease of 0.45 (95% CI: -0.82;-0.09) pixel units from target center with an IQR increase of residential green space in a 50 m buffer. In addition, we observed an improved visual recognition/working memory, represented by the Delayed Matching to Sample Task within all included buffers (50-1000 m). For example, we observed a decrease of 4.91% (95 %CI: -7.46;-2.36) probability of an error occurring if the previous trial was correct and a 2.02% (95 %CI: 0.08; 3.97) increase of correct trials with an IQR increase of green space within a 100 m buffer. Conclusion: This study provides additional indications for a beneficial influence of green space exposure on the development of behavioral problems and cognitive function as young as four years of age.
Journal: Environment international
ISSN: 0160-4120
Volume: 161
Number of pages: 10
Publication year:2022
Keywords:Green Space, SDQ, CANTAB, Childhood