Aug. 27, 2004 -- Getting back to nature may help children cope with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Spending time in "green" settings reduced ADHD symptoms in a national study of children aged 5 to 18.
The study was done by Frances Kuo, PhD, and Andrea Faber Taylor, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Kuo and Taylor used newspaper ads and the Internet to recruit parents of more than 400 children who had been diagnosed with ADHD, a brain disorder marked by inattention, impulsivity, and sometimes hyperactivity.
About 2 million school-aged children in the U.S. have ADHD, write Kuo and Taylor. Adults can also have it.
Of the kids studied, 322 were boys and 84 were girls. They lived all over the U.S., in rural, suburban, and urban settings.
Their parents answered questions via the Internet about how their children did after participating in a wide range of activities done after school and on weekends.
Activities were done inside, outside in areas without much greenery (such as parking lots), and in "greener" spots like parks, backyards, and tree-lined streets.
The kids showed fewer ADHD symptoms after spending time in nature, according to their parents. Symptoms evaluated by the questionnaire included remaining focused on unappealing tasks, completing tasks, listening and following directions, and resisting distractions.
"In each of 56 analyses, green outdoor activities received more positive ratings than did activities taking place in other settings," write Kuo and Taylor.
It didn't matter where the children lived. Rural or urban, coastal or inland, the findings held true for all regions of the country.
Other factors like sex, household income, age, and severity of symptoms weren't significant.
It didn't take a pristine landscape to prompt the improvement. No need to head for a remote rainforest; just get outside and around greenery after school and on weekends, wherever you are, say the researchers.
"These findings are exciting," says Kuo in a news release. "I think we're on the track of something really important, something that could affect a lot of lives in a substantial way."
After all, nature is free and has no side effects "except maybe splinters!" says Kuo.