Child lung health aided by moving close to nature

Child lung function is improved by increased access to green spaces, researchers report today.

More people are living in urban areas lacking natural spaces, which can have deleterious health effects, say Dr Diogo Queiroz Almeida of the University of Porto, Portugal, and colleagues in the *European Respiratory Journal*.

They investigated how exposure to natural environments may affect children’s respiratory health using figures on 3,278 children in a Portuguese population-based birth cohort.

This included accessibility to urban green spaces at birth, age four, age seven and age ten.

The team analysed how average exposure, exposure at birth, and exposure changes over time, were linked to lung health measured by forced vital capacity tests.

"Increasing exposure to greenness at close proximity from residences was associated with improved lung function," the authors write. "While the mechanism remains unknown, this study brings evidence that city greening may improve children’s respiratory health."

Dr Almeida said: “We found that living in greener neighbourhoods as children grow up is more important for their breathing than living in a green area when they were born.

"Our research suggests the greener, the better. These improvements are modest at around two per cent. However, if we look at the whole population, making our neighbourhoods greener could have a considerable impact.

“We looked at factors like physical activity and air pollution, but the link between lung function and moving closer to green space remained, even after we took these into account.

"It could also be that getting closer to nature reduces stress, which can improve physical health, or it might have a positive effect on children’s microbiome – the community of different bacteria that live in our bodies.“

Almeida, D. Q. et al, Green and blue spaces and lung function in the Generation XXI cohort: a life course approach. *European Respiratory Journal* 27 July 2022


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