Today’s Solutions: February 29, 2024

Here at The Optimist Daily, we’ve always emphasized how important nature and greenery are for your health. With luscious vegetation comes a whole range of mental benefits such as improved cognition in children and boosted happiness.

A recent study from Boston University confirms just this. The research team investigated the influence of green spaces on different health conditions in different groups of people and recently published a paper on how green space can greatly help brain health. This time, they have linked the great outdoors to a decreased risk of the neurodegenerative disease dementia.

The study included nearly 14,000 women, with an average age of 61, as part of the largest investigations into the risk factors for chronic diseases among women in the United States. Adjusting for age, race, and individual and neighborhood socioeconomic status, the researchers were able to come up with the average psychomotor speed, attention, learning, and working memory of the participants.

How does green space impact your risk of dementia?

They concluded that green spaces are associated with higher overall cognitive function in middle-aged women, as well as better mental processing and attention. Scientists consider cognitive function around this age as a strong predictor of developing dementia later in life.

They also concluded increased time in green spaces, decreased exposure to air pollution, and increased physical activity decreased the risk of depression, another important risk factor for cognitive decline.

“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,” says study lead author Marcia Pescador Jimenez.

They continue: “This study is among the few to provide evidence that green space 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.”

Why is this research important?

Understanding which factors contribute to diseases helps put preventive action in place to decrease their rate. “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, ” explains Pescador Jimenez.

The team’s research is still ongoing, looking to expand the diversity of its participants and look deeper into the social and biological mechanisms behind these cognitive states.

Source study: JAMA Network OpenResidential Green Space and Cognitive Function in a Large Cohort of Middle-Aged Women

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