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Living in an area bursting with green space is associated with higher overall cognitive function in middle-aged women, as well as better mental processing speed and attention.

For Certain Women, the Grass May be Greener

Green Spaces Deliver Lasting Mental Health Benefits—Especially For Women  

The grass really may be greener for people in spaces and places where there are more green spaces. In a new research study, scientists asked this question, “Do women with access to green spaces have sharper cognitive function through middle-age?” The study came out of concern for the statistics on declining cognitive function. According to Alzheimer’s and Dementia, between 1996 and 2014, researchers identified 9% of the middle-aged population as experiencing rapidly declining cognitive abilities.

But why study green spaces and cognitive function? Could grassy knolls really help our brains? Previous research shows that green spaces are associated with lots of factors that are good for cognitive function. People with access to green spaces are more likely to engage in physical activity and social engagement. Green spaces are also known to help with psychological restoration and to improve brain processes and activity. And finally, green spaces are often a break from the consequences of noise and air pollution.

Based on this knowledge, researchers predicted that women with more access to green spaces would have higher mental abilities through middle-age. The study used a well-established survey to measure both green space access and cognitive testing for the women they studied. Investigators also adjusted results for factors like age, race, SES, etc. When the results were in, the association between access to green space and processing speed was the equivalent of being about 1.2 years younger!

In other words, it’s worth considering the way our environments affect our health. Previous studies note that green spaces positively affect women more than men. Although the study does not focus on men, everyone’s environment should encourage them to stay physically active, socially engaged, etc. Ask yourself, “How easy is it to exercise in my neighborhood? How do my surroundings affect my mental well-being?” These factors play a large role in both your cognitive function and your overall well-being.

Want to spend more time outside? Get to know the green spaces in your community. A quick Google search of “green spaces near me” will pull up city parks. But, sometimes, Google does not list all community natural spaces. Here’s a quick video tutorial on how to find your closest green spaces on Google Maps, and remember that one of the best ways to find green spaces is to explore:

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