How Urban Design Affects Children's Cognitive Development

A European study suggests that good urban design can affect cognitive and motor function development in young children.

November 30, 2021, 5:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Children Playing

Lessadar / Shutterstock

A study from the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) "suggests that the built environment, green space and air pollution can affect cognitive and motor function in children." The study analyzed 13 risk factors that can impact cognitive development, including "the built environment (building density, proximity to public transport, facility richness, etc.), natural spaces, and air pollution from nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and fine particulate matter (PM2.5)." Results showed a correlation between urban design and children's cognitive and motor function.

Specifically, higher exposure to greenness within 300 metres of the home during pregnancy was associated with higher verbal abilities. In contrast, greater connectivity (density of street intersections) and land use diversity during pregnancy were associated with lower verbal abilities.

According to the study, exposure to air pollution during pregnancy correlates with reduced fine motor function, while urban green space could reduce the effects of air pollution. The authors conclude that "well-designed urban planning may benefit children’s cognitive and motor development."

Sunday, April 11, 2021 in Barcelona Institute for Global Health

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