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New Research on beneficial effects of green space on children

  • Subject: [cg] New Research on beneficial effects of green space on children
  • From: "Sally McCabe" <smccabe@pennhort.org>
  • Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2002 10:57:08 -0500
  • Importance: Normal

From: Nina Bassuk (by way of julianne schieffer)
Sent: Monday, January 28, 2002 10:55 AM
To: mmaslin@pennhort.org; mlow@pennhort.org; jxs51@psu.edu
Subject: for your interest

CU researcher: Green space is beneficial to children
By Susan Lang

A house surrounded by nature helps boost a child's attention capabilities,
a study by a Cornell 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, assistant
professor of design and environmental analysis in the College of Human

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

Although the green-space study sample was small -- only 17 children -- the
statistical findings were highly 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.

To conduct the study, published in Environment and Behavior, the researcher
assessed the extent of natural surroundings around the children's old and
new homes by rating, for example, the amount of nature in the views from
various rooms and the degree of the yard's natural setting. To assess their
children's abilities to focus attention, parents answered a series of
questions from the Attention Deficit Disorders Evaluation Scale, a
nationally standardized measure of directed attention capacity.

"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.

The study was funded in part by the University of Michigan and the U.S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) and its Forest Service.

Wells' other study, which found a link between housing quality and mental
health, appears in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. Wells
and her co-authors developed an observer-based rating of quality of homes
occupied by 207 low- and middle-income women with at least one child. They
also gauged the women's levels of psychological distress. In addition,
these measurements were used in an urban sample of 31 low-income women
before and after they moved into a home constructed in collaboration with
Habitat for Humanity.

"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. "Such evidence is important and can be used to encourage
legislators and policy-makers to promote housing improvements for low- and
moderate-income families."

The study, co-authored by Cornell colleague Gary Evans and former Cornell
undergraduates Hoi-Yan Erica Chan and Heidi Saltzman, was supported in part
by the USDA, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Network on
Socioeconomic Status and Health, the National Institute of Child Health and
Human Development and the University of Michigan.

January 24, 2002
Nina Bassuk Urban Horticulture Institute
Dept.of Horticulture 20 Plant Science
Cornell University Ithaca, NY 14853
(607)255-4586 (607)255-9998 fax

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