Children’s Risk for Developing ADHD May Be Associated With Access to Green Spaces

The amount of green space surrounding children’s homes may impact the development of ADHD.

Recent results from a study investigating the impact of green space on children’s development of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) found that the amount of green space surrounding children’s homes could be a factor in the development of the disorder. At Aarhus University in Denmark, a team of researchers observed an association between the green space around the residence and the diagnosis of ADHD in children and adolescents.

"Our findings show that children who have been exposed to less green surroundings in their residential area in early childhood, which we define as lasting up until age 5, have an increased risk of receiving an ADHD diagnosis when compared to children who have been surrounded by the highest level of green space," said study researcher Malene Thygesen, a doctoral student in the Department of Economics and Business Economics at Aarhus University, in a press release.

Despite being one of the most common psychiatric diagnoses among children, ADHD and the source of its development in children are still not fully understood. Although it may be hereditary, other factors may contribute as well.

Because of the lack of knowledge around the cause of ADHD, further research into potential sources remains critical. One potential factor that has remained of interest in research conducted in this field has been the impact of green space on children’s development of ADHD, as prior studies have found an association between access to green spaces and children's mental wellbeing and cognitive development.

Specifically, the findings that show an association between children’s access to green space and the development of ADHD in the current study is not the first to indicate this connection, as these results are similar to those of prior research efforts.

During the study, the researchers gathered data on the addresses of more than 800,000 people born between 1992 and 2007 as well as data on clinical ADHD diagnoses of children from the age of 5 years who were living in these homes up until 2016.

The researchers also used a specific measurement of the amount of green in the environment around a household, which they termed the normalized differential vegetation index. This measurement sets the address in the middle of a quadratic area with 210 meters on either side, and then calculates how much greenery is present within the area.

Additionally, the research team at Aarhus University compiled data that allowed them to take into account other factors that can influence the development of ADHD as well.

"In the study we adjusted for gender, age, the child's year of birth, and the parents' psychiatric diagnosis and socio-economic status, and neighborhood level socio-economic status. Our study is strong because it includes many individuals and because the information is very detailed. For example, we use data based on clinical diagnoses of ADHD made by specialists," Thygesen said in the press release. "It's interesting to think that living in green environments may be a protective factor for children in relation to the risk of developing ADHD."

REFERENCE

The risk of ADHD may be lower if children grow up in green environments. Aarhus, Denmark: Aarhus University; March 1, 2021. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/470079. Accessed July 26, 2021.