Concrete jungle – the most urbanized countries in the world

Rooftop gardens and vertical forests: why concrete jungles all over the world are being landscaped and how it helps to avoid schizophrenia

Researchers in Denmark have concluded that children who grew up surrounded by greenery have a 55% lower risk of developing mental disorders than their peers in more urban areas. Surrounding vegetation is especially important for a child under the age of 10.

What happened

Researchers have found that a large amount of green space in the city reduces the risk of developing mental illness in the future.

Why It Matters

By 2050, approximately two-thirds of the world’s population will live in cities. According to WHO, one billion people already have mental health problems at this time.


Many megacities are increasing their green space in unusual ways. In Milan and Singapore they plant vertical forests and in New York City they arrange vegetable gardens right on the roofs of buildings.

In Russia

Moscow is one of the world leaders in environmental policy. Since 2011, the city has planted 800,000 trees and more than 8.5 million shrubs.

What happened

Danish researchers concluded that a large amount of green spaces in the city reduces the risk of mental illness for its residents.

  • In the study, experts from Aarhus University used satellite data from 1985 to 2015 to analyze the amount of “greenery,” and examined medical data from nearly 1 million residents.
  • They found that children who grew up in the greenest environment had a 55 percent lower risk of developing mental disorders than peers from more urban areas. Even factors such as socioeconomic status and family history of mental illness did not affect the result.
  • The researchers also found a consistent pattern: the more time a child lived in green spaces before age 10, the better his or her mental health.

The same researchers went on to study the relationship between mental health and the amount of green around, interviewing 66,000 blood donors. It turned out that the color green (vegetation in parks, grass on lawns) increases productivity, social activity and overall mood. And those who were predominantly surrounded by the color blue (water bodies) felt calmer than others.

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Influence has not only the nature itself, but also the sounds that she “makes. The scientific portal Sciencedirect results of the experiment: two groups of people immersed in a virtual reality with natural landscapes. In that group, whose reality was also an imitation of the sounds of nature, the parasympathetic nervous system is activated.

Why it matters

According to another study, urban Danish residents have an almost 50 percent higher risk of developing anxiety and affective disorder than their countrymen who live in rural areas.

  • According to the WHO, about a billion people have mental health problems. Among children and adolescents, one in five suffers from mental disorders.
  • Severe mental disorders affect life expectancy. For example, patients with schizophrenia on average die 10-20 years earlier than others. Many of them are suicidal.
  • Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the number of people with mental disorders has only increased.

In 2020, 56% of the world’s population lived in cities. The UN predicts that by 2030, the proportion of urban dwellers will reach 60%, and by 2050, about two-thirds of all people will live in cities. Eco-business magazine draws attention to the fact that the study of Danish scientists may be important for urban planning in the future.


Many international organizations support greening projects. In particular, the World Bank has financed more than 100 green programs in 60 countries since 2012: for example, the expansion of wetlands in Colombo and the restoration of mangrove forests off the coast of Vietnam, which also prevent floods. Megacities aren’t lagging behind.

  • New York City has set up a vegetable garden of over 22,000 square meters that grows more than 45 tons of vegetables and greens annually. It is not on the ground, but on the roofs of three buildings.
  • The garden of 20 thousand trees and plants decorates two residential high-rises in downtown Milan. In Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) cherry, apple and olive trees grow next to beech and larch right on the balconies. There are similar vertical gardens in Singapore and many other cities.
  • Photo: Zuma / TASS, Milan
  • Photo: City Developments Limited, Singapore
  • In Medellín, Colombia’s second largest metropolis, 30 “green” corridors were built across the city to connect parks and gardens. According to authorities, this has lowered the temperature by 2 degrees and made the air cleaner. Some bird species and bees that had previously left Medellín have even returned.
  • The authorities of Copenhagen will turn a busy roadway in front of the famous Tivoli amusement park in the city center into a green space of 10 thousand square meters.
  • In Barcelona it is intended to increase the area of green spaces by 18.6 hectares by 2023 (which is comparable to the area of 26 soccer fields).
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In Russia

In 2021 the international organization Carbon Disclosure Project gave high marks to Moscow’s environmental policy. The Russian capital was included in the list of the 95 leading cities in this field, which also includes projects for green spaces.

  • Since 2011, about 800 thousand trees and more than 8.5 million bushes have been planted in Moscow, said the head of the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Anton Kulbachevsky.
  • Most often linden, rowan or maple trees are planted in Moscow, and the most popular shrub – dogwood.
  • In May of 2021 the Russian capital joined the UN International program “Trees in Cities”.
  • Moscow also has a program “One Million Trees”, which started in 2013. What types of trees and shrubs to plant are chosen by the residents themselves on the website of the Active Citizen project.

Across Russia, a record number of trees – 70 million – were planted in 2021 as part of the “Let’s Save the Forest” campaign.

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