Study Links Time Spent Outdoors to Decrease in Teen Depressive Symptoms

CLEVELAND – Being outside in the natural greenery has been shown to ward off depression symptoms for adults.

Now, research is showing that time spent outdoors might help boost the moods of teens as well.

Joseph Austerman, D.O., of Cleveland Clinic Children’s did not take part in the study, but said the benefit was especially strong for middle school aged children.

“They found, particularly in younger teens, that there was an association with some benefit in decreasing depressive symptoms the closer that they lived to a green space.” 

The study looked at a group of 9,385 children between the ages of 12-18.

Researchers found that young people who lived amongst the highest-quality ‘green space’ were less likely than their peers who lived in areas with less vegetation to have depression symptoms.

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However, they did not find the same mood benefits for teens amongst ‘blue space’ – or places with water.

The study also found that even in urban areas, where there is less access to green space, simply bringing the green inside – with photographs and indoor plants – also had positive effects on children’s moods.

Joseph Austerman, D.O., said getting teens outside (and off of their devices) helps them connect with others, which can provide a boost to their mood.

Dr. Austerman said when we’re outside, it increases our physical activity, helps us connect with one another, and also helps us get off of our electronics and more in tune with the space around us – all of which can boost our mood.

He said one reason why younger teens may have shown more benefit in the study was because the older teens get, the more likely they are to be tuned into their devices, and tuned out of the outside world.

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He said while it might be tougher to get older teens to put down their phones, just getting them outside and interacting with others is a start.

“Being interactive with our environments; getting outside; being physically active, is important and it helps us both emotionally, as well as physically.” 

Complete results of the study can be found in the Journal of Adolescent Health.