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Household Proximity to Green Spaces Positively Impacts Newborns

Green spaces associated with higher birth weights

by
Holden Galusha

Holden Galusha is the associate editor for Lab Manager. He was a freelance contributing writer for Lab Manager before being invited to join the team full-time. Previously, he was the...

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New research published in Environment International reinforces the importance of exposure to nature, indicating that being in close proximity to green spaces is associated with higher birth weight and lower odds of a newborn being small for its gestational age. The results also showed virtually no association for accessibility to green spaces, along with no association for exposure or accessibility to bodies of water, or blue spaces.

This study is based on a sample of 69,683 newborns across 11 European countries with an average birth weight of 3.42 kg (7.54 lbs). Approximately seven percent of the newborns were considered to be small for gestational age (SGA), which means their birth weight was less than or equal to the tenth lower percentile of all newborns. The researchers calculated seven factors to judge the newborns’ residential exposure to nature:

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  1. Surrounding green space within 100 meters of the house
  2. Surrounding green space within 300 meters of the house
  3. Surrounding green space within 500 meters of the house
  4. Distance to the nearest green space
  5. Accessibility to green space
  6. Distance to the nearest blue space
  7. Accessibility to blue space

The team also factored in the socioeconomic status of participating families, as well as the region of Europe they are from and levels of air pollution.

Results showed stronger associations between higher birth weights and lower rates of SGA in households that were within 500 meters of a green space. This phenomenon was magnified among participants who (1) were of lower socioeconomic status, (2) hailed from deprived areas with lower educational levels, and (3) were from northern Europe. By contrast, no such associations were found between accessibility to green spaces—highlighting the importance of residential proximity to green spaces in a child’s development—or exposure to blue spaces.

The researchers believe their findings may be used to advocate for policies to promote natural environments in cities, starting with more deprived areas.