Gray space and green space proximity associated with higher anxiety in youth with autism
This study used ZIP code level data on children's health (National Survey of Children's Health, 2012) and land cover (National Land Cover Database, 2011) from across the United States to investigate connections between proximity to green space (tree canopy), gray space (impervious surfaces), and expression of a critical co-morbid condition, anxiety, in three groups of youth: children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD, n=1501), non-ASD children with special healthcare needs (CSHCN, n=15,776), and typically developing children (n=53,650). Both impervious surface coverage and tree canopy coverage increased the risk of severe anxiety in youth with autism, but not CSHCN or typical children. Children with ASD might experience the stress-reducing benefits of nature differently than their typically developing peers. More research using objective diagnostic metrics at finer spatial scales would help to illuminate complex relationships between green space, anxiety, and other co-morbid conditions in youth with ASD.