Living in neighbourhoods without green spaces can lead to schizophrenia among residents, reveals a new study by the Aarhus University, Denmark. A startling find of the study is the high probability (50 percent) of developing this mental illness due to lack of green spaces. The research described ‘green space’ as any area with vegetation from grassy expanses and cornfields to forests.

Conducted by scientists from the Department of Bioscience and the Centre for Register Research at Aarhus University, Denmark, the study based their research on satellite maps of Denmark’s green spaces (1985 - 2013) as well as data from the country’s national registers for people born between 1985 and 2003, and diagnosed with schizophrenia. 

The study covered a total population of 943,027 people with 7,509 diagnosed with schizophrenia.

According to lead author and Postdoc Kristine Engemann from the Department of Bioscience at Aarhus University, people with the least access to green spaces within 210sqm of their home, had a higher risk of developing the illness.

Professor Merete Nordentoft from the Department of Clinical Medicine at the University of Copenhagen, who studies the causes of schizophrenia and treatments, but was not involved in this particular study, observes that the research findings are important because schizophrenia is still not fully understood.

Past studies have shown city dwellers to be more at risk of developing schizophrenia; hence the green space theory has some basis.

Explaining the correlation between green spaces and mental health, Engemann says that green spaces encourage people to get out and exercise, which positively impacts a person’s psychological health. Various studies have also shown the influence of green spaces on a child’s cognitive development.

Engemann concludes that clear understanding of the impact of greenery on human health is particularly relevant in an era of increasing urbanisation, and it will help better plan our cities.