It is commonly believed that nature has positive impacts on children’s health, including physical, mental and social dimensions. This review focuses on how accessibility to, exposure to and engagement with nature affects the mental health of children and teenagers.
Ten academic databases were used to systematically search and identify primary research papers in English or French from 1990 to 1 March 2017. Papers were included for review based on their incorporation of nature, children and teenagers (0–18 years), quantitative results and focus on mental health.
Of the 35 papers included in the review, the majority focused on emotional well-being and attention deficit disorder/hyperactivity disorder. Other outcome measures included overall mental health, self-esteem, stress, resilience, depression and health-related quality of life. About half of all reported findings revealed statistically significant positive relationships between nature and mental health outcomes and almost half reported no statistical significance.
Findings support the contention that nature positively influences mental health; however, in most cases, additional research with more rigorous study designs and objective measures of both nature and mental health outcomes are needed to confirm statistically significant relationships. Existing evidence is limited by the cross-sectional nature of most papers.
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