Children living near green spaces have stronger bones

Sleurs H, Silva AI, Bijnens EM, et al. Exposure to Residential Green Space and Bone Mineral Density in Young ChildrenJAMA Netw Open. 2024; 7(1): e2350214.

Bone mass, a composite of bone size and mineral density, is a key determinant of bone strength throughout life. Peak bone mass is achieved in early adulthood and depends on the bone mass accrual during skeletal growth and development. For this reason, suboptimal accrual at a young age is as crucial to the onset of osteoporosis as bone loss through aging.

Hence, targeted interventions on bone mass accrual at the early stages of life may decrease fracture and/or osteoporosis risk later in life. In addition to the influence exerted by genetic factors, early-life physiologic, lifestyle (eg, nutrition and physical activity), and environmental factors may also play an important role in bone mass accrual.

Several studies have reported the benefits of early-life green space exposure on neurocognitive and social-behavioral development,1as well as on the mental and emotional well-being of children. Moreover, higher green space exposure during childhood has also been associated with lower body mass index, reduced risk of overweight or obesity, lower blood pressure, and higher physical activity.

Despite increasing evidence about the health benefits of green space exposure, the available studies1on the association with bone mineral density are scarce. One large population-based, epidemiologic study reported that living in a greener area was associated with higher bone strength in adults, suggesting that residential exposure to greenness may positively influence bone health.

Conversely, a longitudinal study conducted among elderly citizens did not observe a protective effect of residential greenness on bone health. In this context, the aim of this study was to investigate the association between early-life exposure to residential surrounding green space and bone mineral density in children aged 4 to 6 years living in an affluent society.

Conclusions and Relevance  In this study of 1492 children aged 4 to 6 years, higher bone mineral density and a lower risk of having low bone density were associated with higher residential green space exposure during childhood. These findings highlight the importance of early-life exposure to residential green space on bone health during critical periods of growth and development, with long-term implications.

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