Youth growing up in places with more greenspaces have better developmental outcomes. The literature on greenspace and youth development is largely cross-sectional, thus limited in terms of measuring development and establishing causal inference. We conducted a systematic review of prospective, longitudinal studies measuring the association between greenspace exposure and youth development outcomes measured between ages two and eighteen. We searched Cochrane, PubMed, CINAHL, Scopus, and Environment Complete, and included prospective cohort, quasi-experimental, and experimental studies on greenspace and youth development. Study quality was assessed using a 10-item checklist adapted from a previously published review on greenspace and health. Twenty-eight studies met criteria for review and were grouped into five thematic categories based on reported outcomes: cognitive and brain development, mental health and wellbeing, attention and behavior, allergy and respiratory, and obesity and weight. Seventy-nine percent of studies suggest an association between greenspace and improved youth development. Most studies were concentrated in wealthy, Western European countries, limiting generalizability of findings. Key opportunities for future research include: (1) improved uniformity of standards in measuring greenspace, (2) improved measures to account for large latency periods between greenspace exposure and developmental outcomes, and (3) more diverse study settings and populations.
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We would like to thank Gloria Willson and John Usseglio from the August C. Long Health Sciences Library at Columbia University Irving Medical Center for their guidance in developing a rigorous search strategy for this review. We would also like thank Dr. Daniel W. Belsky and Dr. Charles C. Branas for their guidance and mentorship in writing this manuscript.
This work was partially funded by NIEHS T32 ES007322.
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Publisher’s note Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.
Appendix 1: Growing up green: a systematic review of the influence of greenspace on youth development and health outcomes
Appendix 2. Relevant study characteristics and primary findings from articles evaluating longitudinal association between greenspace exposure and youth development
Appendix 3. Present data on risk of bias of each study and outcome level assessment
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Sprague, N.L., Bancalari, P., Karim, W. et al. Growing up green: a systematic review of the influence of greenspace on youth development and health outcomes. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41370-022-00445-6
- Child exposure/health
- Children’s health
- Early life exposure
- Health studies
- Sustainable development