Green space can reduce adolescents’ aggressive behavior

By Karin Lillis • Published: September 13th, 2016
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Many studies have shown that access to green space helps to reduce anxiety and promote a sense of well-being. Now, researchers from the University of Southern California believe that access to greenery within urban environments can reduce aggressive behavior among adolescents.

Their findings were published recently in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The team followed nearly 1,300 youths between the ages of 9 and 18 who lived in urban communities in Southern California. Every two to three years, researchers interviewed each adolescent’s parents and asked if their child destroyed things, attacked or threatened others, or showed other undesirable behavior. The team considered the short- and long-term effects of exposure to greenery in urban areas — between one and six months and one and three years. They studied the amount of nearby greenery using satellite imagery.

Adolescents who lived in areas where there was green space within about 1,100 yards of residences were less aggressive than their counterparts in communities with little greenery. The results were the same across various ages, races, ethnicities and family incomes.

The study suggests that increasing neighborhood greenery might be an effective approach to reducing aggressive behaviors. Specifically, the researchers found that increasing green space in urban environments might lead to a 12 percent decrease in clinical cases of aggressive behavior among the Southern California adolescents they studied. The researchers hope to support their findings through broader studies.

For young people, the neighborhood park can be a beneficial place… for the body and the mind.