Today’s Solutions: November 28, 2022

Your life is one long equation adding up to different results over your life. The factors in the equation could be your time spent with loved ones over time spent at work used to calculate the result of your overall happiness. 

Researchers from Boston University’s School of Public Health have found that one factor for those susceptible to dementia is, time spent outside in green spaces could be a factor in their life’s equation. 

Staying fresh in the fresh air 

The study looked at 13,594 women with an average age of 61. Using the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) the researchers estimated the green space around participants and then used a self-administered Cogstate Brief Battery to measure their psychomotor speed, attention, learning, and working memory. They also considered the participants’ physical activity, the local air pollution, and their rates of depression. 

The findings were that living near greenery could boost cognitive function for middle-aged women and even possibly reduce their rates of dementia. 

“Some of the primary ways that nature may improve health is by helping people recover from psychological stress and by encouraging people to be outside socializing with friends, both of which boost mental health,” said Dr. Marcia Pescador Jimenez, lead author of the study and assistant professor of epidemiology at Boston University School of Public Health. “This study is among the few to provide evidence that greenspace may benefit cognitive function in older ages. Our findings suggest that green space should be investigated as a potential population-level approach to improve cognitive function.”

They attribute this largely to the calming effect that outside has on people and believe that it could particularly benefit women, who are statistically more susceptible to dementia. Given that depression can contribute to one’s mental decline, and cognitive function in one’s middle age indicates the likelihood of developing dementia, restorative time spent outdoors can have a large impact on one’s mind and possibly slow the rate of decline. 

“We theorize that depression might be an important mechanism through which green space may slow down cognitive decline, particularly among women, but our research is ongoing to better understand these mechanisms,” Jimenez explained. “Based on these results, clinicians and public health authorities should consider green space exposure as a potential factor to reduce depression, and thus, boost cognition. Policymakers and urban planners should focus on adding more green space in everyday life to improve cognitive function.”

The study was not able to take into account the kinds of green spaces that participants were exposed to, such as urban parks, grass, neighborhood trees, etc. Jimenez wants to replicate the experiment and collect more detailed data to find out more specifics.

Source Study: BU School of Public HealthLiving in Areas with More Greenery May Boost Cognitive Function | SPH (bu.edu)

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