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Nature Can Help Protect Rural Children From Stress
Detail: ITHACA, New York, April 25, 2003 (ENS) - A new study finds that nature in or around the home appears to be a significant factor in protecting the psychological well being of children in rural areas.

The study, published in the latest issue of the journal "Environment and Behavior," analyzes an assessment of the degree of nature in and around the homes of 337 rural children in grades three through five.

"Our study finds that life's stressful events appear not to cause as much psychological distress in children who live in high-nature conditions compared with children who live in low-nature conditions," said Nancy Wells, assistant professor of design and environmental analysis in the New York State College of Human Ecology at Cornell.

"And the protective impact of nearby nature is strongest for the most vulnerable children - those experiencing the highest levels of stressful life events," Wells explained.

Wells and Cornell colleague Gary Evans made their assessments by calculating the number of live plants indoors, the amount of nature in the window views and the material of the outdoor yard, such as grass, dirt or concrete.

The researchers used standardized scales to measure stress in the children's lives, parents' reports of their children's stressed behavior and the children's self ratings of psychological well being. The study controlled for socioeconomic status and income.

The data also suggests that more nature appears to be better when it comes to improving children's resilience against stress or adversity, the researchers say.

"By bolstering children's attentional resources, green spaces may enable children to think more clearly and cope more effectively with life stress," Wells explained.

Another possible explanation for the protective effect of being close to nature, Wells said, is that green spaces foster social interaction and thereby promote social support.
Source: Environment and Behavior, May 2003 (35:3)
Date: April 25 2003