Adventurous childhood play may protect against anxiety and depression: Study

NEWNow you can listen to Fox News articles!

According to a recent article published in the journal Child Psychiatry and Human Development, children who participated in more adventurous, arousing or fearful play had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression compared to those who participated in non-adventurous activities.

“We are more concerned than ever about the mental health of children and our results show that we could help protect children’s mental health giving them plenty of opportunities for adventurous play,” says lead author Helen Dodd, professor of child psychology at the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom.

“It’s really positive because the game is free, instinctive and good for kids, accessible to everyone and doesn’t require special skills. We now urgently need to invest in and protect natural spaces, well-designed parks and adventure playgrounds to support the mental health of our children.”

Children who spent more time playing outdoors had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Children who spent more time playing outdoors had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression.

The researchers conducted two studies. One study in Northern Ireland with a sample of 427 parents, which they expanded to a second larger ‘nationally representative’ sample of 1919 parents residing in the UK (England, Wales and Scotland) to see if this larger study confirms the results of the first study .


They defined adventurous play “as child-led play in which children experience subjective feelings of excitement, awe, and fear; often in the context of age-appropriate risk.”

The study interviewed parents of children aged 5-11 during the first weeks of quarantine due to COVID-19.

Parents completed three different surveys: one about their child’s play, one about their child’s general mental health in the weeks leading up to the pandemic, and a third that assessed whether their child had symptoms of anxiety or depression during the first COVID-19 lockdown. .

Engaging in adventurous activities can improve children's mental health.

Engaging in adventurous activities can improve children’s mental health.

After adjusting for child age, gender, parent employment status, and parent mental health, both smaller and larger studies found that children who spend more time playing outside had fewer symptoms of anxiety and depression, but a larger study found a stronger correlation for children growing up in low-income households.

The researchers suggest that the stronger correlation among low-income households may be secondary to fewer opportunities in these households for structured pursuits such as scouting, martial arts or adventure camps, which typically induce feelings of insecurity and coping.

They suggest that adventurous play takes on greater importance in low-income households because these structured opportunities are not as readily available.


The researchers also found that adventurous play was not associated with symptoms of anxiety or depression, and noted that the study had limitations because it was based on parental reports of gaming and mental health.

More games = more happiness and less anxiety and depression,” said Dan Paskins, director of UK Impact at Save the Children.

“Every child needs and deserves the opportunity to play. This important study shows that it’s even more important to help kids thrive after everything they’ve missed out on during COVID-19 restrictions.”

Children play at the mouth of Lake Itasca, Minnesota.

Children play at the mouth of Lake Itasca, Minnesota.
((Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images))

However, in some parts of the country, such as New York, it is not always easy to find safe places for children to play outsidebut one sports director is trying to change that.

“At the City Parks Foundation, one of New York City’s leading non-profit youth activism organizations, we’ve seen first hand that the kids have had a tough year. We also know that creating a fun outdoor environment for young people to play adventurously helps them make positive connections. build confidence and stay active,” said Mike Silverman, athletic director for the City Parks Foundation.


On July 9, he told Fox News that his foundation is partnering with the Life Time Foundation to host a Family Adventure Race in Queens to give hundreds of parents and children the opportunity to reduce stress by participating in an exciting series of obstacles and collaborative activities.

“This is also our first family adventure race since the start of the pandemic, which is especially exciting and I’m happy to report that we still have places for families who are interested in teaming up with their kids for a fun adventure hour. play,” added Silverman.