Nature Reduces Teen Aggression
Growing up in the Midwest, I was exposed to the outdoors constantly. My family did a lot of camping trips, activities around lakes and rivers, as well as outdoor excursions.
As I’ve gotten older, I don’t get in touch with nature as much as I used to. As adults, I suppose most of us grow accustomed to always having our creature comforts and digital tech on hand.
But nature can be a boon to our mental health. Recent research has discovered that there are a number of benefits to be had by being in and around green spaces.
And now, a new study has found another interesting benefit, but for adolescents. Researcher have found that nature reduces teen aggression.
Many of the studies surrounding nature have looked at its effects on adult populations. Very few have taken a look at how it may affect younger adults. So researchers decided to take a closer look, and they sum up their results quite simply:
“We found strong evidence supporting the benefits of neighborhood green space in reducing aggressive behaviors.”
They didn’t compare teens in rural towns to those in the big cities. But they did look at urban environments of children and teens aged 9 to 18 in Southern California.
The researchers looked at over 1,200 different kids in the Los Angeles area. Over a period of several years, parents would fill out questionnaires about their child’s behavior. These behaviors included things like getting into fights, destroying property, and more.
The researchers then used satellite imagery to calculate the amount of green space within 1,000 meters of the child’s home. Using this data, they noticed an association between the amount of green space and less aggressive tendencies.
What’s the Cause?
It’s interesting to note that their findings applied to teens of all types of backgrounds.
Their results held true just as much for boys as it did for girls. It also wasn’t limited to rich or poor neighborhoods. Or by race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status.
Furthermore, they found that both short term exposure (months) and long term exposure (more than a year) both had a positive effect on reducing aggression.
So what did the researchers think the reason behind calmer teens?
Their guesses included reduction of maternal stress (which has been linked to teen outbursts), an increase physical activity, reduced pollution, and less ambient noise to name a few.
They even said that it may be due in part to the increased microbial diversity that could boost immune functions.
The actual reason remains unknown, though. So we’ll have to wait for other research to find hard answers.
The Beauty of Nature
Nature and the great outdoors seems to be one of those topics that keeps popping up.
While it may have a restorative effect for adults, the study hints that nature can be just as important for younger developing minds. In fact, other research has shown how it can help develop the cognitive abilities of adolescents.
I remember my parents telling me that I needed to go outside and play. Chances are, they probably just wanted some peace and quite without me bothering them. Little did they know it was probably good for the both of us.
Long story, short, green spaces are important for mental health and performance at about any age. And for younger generations, maybe it’s best we keep some traditions alive by telling our kids to not spend all their time in front of a screen.