Biodiverse living environment as a promoter of long-term health in urban and rural areas (Green Childhood)


Biodiversity is decreasing at an unprecedented scale. Human well-being depends on healthy, functioning natural ecosystems, for example due to food production and the water cycle. In addition, human health may have a more direct connection with biodiversity, which is studied in this project.

Non-communicable diseases have become more common all over the world. Some evidence suggests that biodiversity could reduce the incidence of asthma and improve mental well-being. Some non-communicable diseases such as asthma, type 1 diabetes and autism develop already in childhood, when the immune system learns to distinguish between friends and enemies. If this education is lacking, the susceptibility to the development of non-communicable diseases increases. A still fragmented research suggests that one of the best teachers are those microbes that occur in diverse natural environments.


The goal of this three-year project is to find out the effect of the quality of living environments, i.e. the naturalness and biodiversity, on children's risk of developing non-communicable diseases. In addition, we are investigating whether gut microbes could mediate this effect. Children's connection to nature is particularly limited in cities. That's why we also study whether the quality of urban parks affects their health effects. A rich examination of research questions is made possible by our interdisciplinary research collaboration.


Large research efforts has already been placed on human health and environmental research, and thus comprehensive data are available. We use the register data of over a million children in Finland, as well as birth cohort data of urban children, from whom comprehensive monitoring of intestinal microbiota can be found.

The project also invests in communication to enable a public discussion on the topic.

Contact information

Senior Research Scientist Jenni Lehtimäki,, +358 503 050 007

Published 2023-02-01 at 11:29, updated 2023-02-06 at 15:14

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