When researchers wanted to figure out which natural settings provide the greatest benefits to city kids, a group of London scientists focused in on forests. They analyzed where kids between the ages of 9 and 15 lived and found those nearest to woodlands had better thinking skills, and a lower risk of emotional and behavioral problems.

The researchers from University College London and Imperial College London looked at where more than 3,500 kids lived and how close those places were to natural urban environments. They looked at green spaces (meadows, woods and parks) and blue spaces (rivers, lakes and the sea) and found out that woodlands seemed to make the most positive impact on overall wellbeing.

The researchers say more study needs to be done to figure out the connection between nature and health. They add that their results could help urban planners incorporate woodland elements into their designs so children and others may have easier access to spaces that may benefit cognitive and mental health development.

This study was published in the journal Nature Sustainability.

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