Children living in cities but raised near green areas would have a higher IQ than those who are far from it, according to a recent Belgian study. Besides intelligence, the latter also revealed that greenery also has a beneficial effect on their behavior.

Cities are often opposed to nature and the great outdoors. Numerous studies have affirmed that green spaces, urban or not, have a multitude of benefits for populations, especially in terms of stress reduction and physical activity. In addition, there is growing evidence that a green environment can improve cognitive function. In a recent study published in the journal PLOS Medicine, researchers from the University of Hasselt (in Belgium) believe that growing up in a "green" urban environment helps boost children's intelligence and lower levels of difficult behavior. .

Specifically, they found that children who grow up in areas with little greenery are at risk of having lower intelligence quotient (IQ) scores. The science team says there is already significant evidence that green spaces improve various aspects of children's cognitive development, but their study is the first to look more specifically at IQ. This consisted in using satellite images to measure the level of greenery in several neighborhoods: parks, gardens, street trees and any other vegetation. At the same time, the researchers were able to access data on 600 children aged 10 to 15, including their IQ.

"Prioritize investments in green spaces"

The average IQ score was 105, but scientists found that 4% of children living in areas with low greenery had a score below 80 while no child living in greener areas had a lower score. to 80. Moreover, by comparing children according to their proximity to these areas, they observed that those who lived in areas with little greenery obtained on average 2.6 IQ points less. These differences were not related to the economic level of families since the effect was observed in the richest and poorest areas.

Their behavioral difficulties were also measured using a standard rating scale. The average score was 46 and again, scientists found that children living in less green areas performed worse in this area (such as poor attention and aggression), averaging two points. less according to reports provided by their teachers. “There is growing evidence that green environments are associated with our cognitive function, such as memory and attention,” Prof. Tim Nawrot told The Guardian. “City planners should prioritize their investments in green spaces, as it helps to create an optimal environment for children to develop to their full potential. "

If researchers are unable to clearly explain why green spaces can be beneficial for the intellectual and behavioral development of children living in urban areas, a hypothesis is put forward. These suggest that green spaces help expose children to a quieter environment and keep them away from ambient noise, which helps reduce stress, as other research on the benefits of green spaces has shown. In addition, these zones are ideal for the regular practice of a physical activity and for the social bond, all factors which could have a beneficial impact on the IQ scores.