Exposure to Residential Green Space and Bone Mineral Density in Young Children

Hanne Sleurs, Ana Inês Silva, Esmée M. Bijnens, Yinthe Dockx, Martien Peusens, Leen Rasking, Michelle Plusquin, Tim S. Nawrot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Importance: Bone mass accrual is influenced by environmental and lifestyle factors. Targeted interventions at the early stages of life might decrease fracture and/or osteoporosis risk later in life. Objective: To investigate whether early-life exposure to residential surrounding green space is associated with a change in bone mineral density in young children. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this prospective birth cohort study (ENVIRONAGE [Environmental Influence on Aging in Early Life]), mother-child pairs from Flanders, Belgium, were recruited at birth and followed up for 4 to 6 years, between October 1, 2014, and July 31, 2021. Data analysis was conducted between January and February 2022. Exposures: Green space was estimated for high green (>3 m vegetation height), low green (≤3 m vegetation height), and total green (sum of high and low) within several radii (100-3000 m) around the residence after geocoding of the addresses. Main Outcomes and Measures: Radial bone mineral density was assessed using quantitative ultrasound measurement at follow-up, measured as the mean of the axially transmitted speed of sound in meters per second. Multiple linear and logistic regression models were used while accounting for relevant covariates and potential confounders. Results: The study population comprised 327 children (180 [55.0%] female; mean [SD] age, 4.6 [0.4] years at the follow-up evaluation). Early-life exposure to residential green space was associated with increased childhood bone health. An IQR increment in total green (21.2%) and high green (19.9%) space within 500 m was associated with an increase of 27.38 m/s (95% CI, 9.63-45.13 m/s) and 25.30 m/s (95% CI, 7.93-42.68 m/s) in bone mineral density, respectively. Additionally, an IQR increase in total (25.2%) and high (23.2%) green space within 1000 m was associated with a 67% (odds ratio, 0.33; 95% CI, 0.17-0.61) and 61% (odds ratio, 0.39; 95% CI, 0.18-0.75) lower risk of having a bone density lower than the sex-specific 10th percentile (3567.6 m/s for girls and 3522.8 m/s for boys). Conclusions and Relevance: In this study of 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..

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1003213
Number of pages13
JournalJAMA network open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2024


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