Researchers from University of Southern California (USC) in the US conducted the first longitudinal study to see whether greenery surrounding the home could reduce aggressive behaviours in a group of adolescents living in urban communities.

They followed 1,287 adolescents, aged nine to 18 years. They assessed the adolescents' aggressive behaviours every two to three years, asking parents if their child physically attacked or threatened others, destroyed things, or exhibited other similar behaviours.

Researchers then linked the adolescents' residential locations to satellite data to measure the levels of greenery in their neighbourhood.

The study found that nine to 18-year-olds who lived in places with more greenery had significantly less aggressive behaviours than those living in neighborhoods with less greenery.

Both short-term (one to six months) and long-term (one to three years) exposure to greenspace within 1,000 metres surrounding residences were associated with reduced aggressive behaviours, researchers said.

The behavioural benefit of greenspace equated to approximately two to two-and-a-half years of adolescent maturation, they said.

The study also found that factors such as age, gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, parents' educational background, occupation, income level, or marital status, and whether their mother smoked while pregnant or was depressed, did not affect the findings.

These benefits existed for both boys and girls of all ages and races/ethnicities, and across populations with different socioeconomic backgrounds and living in communities with different neighbourhood quality, researchers said.

"Identifying effective measures to reduce aggressive and violent behaviours in adolescents is a pressing issue facing societies worldwide," said Diana Younan from USC.

"It is important that we target aggressive behaviours early on. Our study provides new evidence that increasing neighbourhood greenery may be an effective alternative intervention strategy for an environmental public health approach that has not been considered yet," said Younan.

Researchers estimate that increasing greenery levels commonly seen in urban environments could result in a 12 percent decrease in clinical cases of aggressive behaviour in adolescents living in urban areas.

The results support the benefits of greenery in decreasing aggressive behaviours for adolescents living in urban communities, researchers said.

The findings were published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

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