Hong Kong: Does your child often feel stressed and depressed? A walk in the woods is likely to improve his/her mood, researchers said. The study, led by a team from the University of Hong Kong, revealed that children who developed a closer connection with nature had less distress, less hyperactivity and had a healthy lifestyle with regard to active play and eating habits.
They also had fewer behavioral and emotional difficulties, as well as improved pro-social behavior. However, despite the extensive, adjacent greenness, many families are not using these areas, the researchers rued in the paper published in the PLOS ONE journal.
“We noticed a tendency where parents are avoiding nature. They perceive it as dirty and dangerous, and their children unfortunately pick up these attitudes,” said Tanja Sobko from the University`s School of Biological Sciences.
In addition, the green areas are often unwelcoming with signs like “Keep off the grass”, Sobko added.
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Recent research shows that spending time with nature may bring many health benefits, and many environmental programmes around the world are trying to decrease `nature-deficit` and `child-nature disconnectedness` in order to improve children`s health.
For the study, the team prepared a new 16-item parent questionnaire (CNI-PPC) to measure “connectedness to nature` in very young children. The questionnaire identified four areas that reflect the child-nature relationship: enjoyment of nature, empathy for nature, responsibility towards nature and awareness of nature.
The results give a new possibility for investigating the link between the outdoor environment and well-being in pre-school children. The team further plans to test the effect of exposing children to nature and changes in their gut microbiota.