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Two new studies drive home the win-win created when children and adults feel more connected with nature.
The first study, “Connectedness to Nature: Its Impact on Sustainable Behaviors and Happiness in Children,” by researchers (Barrera-Hernández et al., 2020) in Mexico, found that feeling connected to nature tends to make children happier and goes hand-in-hand with a higher rate of eco-friendly behaviors. These findings were published on February 26 in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.
What Is Nature Connectedness?
In a news release, first author Laura Fernanda Berrera-Hernández describes connectedness to nature (i.e., nature connectedness) as “being aware of the interrelation and dependence between ourselves and nature, appreciating all of the nuances of nature, and feeling a part of it.”
The cohort for this study included 296 children from a northwestern Mexican city who were between the ages of nine and 12. Each study participant was surveyed to measure his or her feelings of connectedness to nature, sustainable behaviors, and happiness.
A Likert scale with five responses ranging from One (“I strongly disagree”) to Five (“I totally agree”) was used to measure degrees of nature connectedness and sustainable behaviors based on statements such as “Humans are part of the natural world” and “I separate empty bottles to recycle.” Happiness was measured using three items from the Subjective Happiness Scale (Lyubomirsky & Lepper, 1999).
As mentioned, the researchers identified a significant correlation between connectedness to nature, sustainable behaviors, and happiness. “Parents and teachers should promote children to have more significant contact or exposure to nature, because our results indicate that exposure to nature is related to the connection with it, and in turn, with sustainable behaviors and happiness,” Berrera-Hernández said.
To learn more about how unstructured “nature play” benefits early childhood development (Dankiw et al., 2020) see “Playing Freely in Nature May Be Really Good for Kids.”
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Visiting Nature at Least Once a Week Is Associated With Better Health
The second recent study (Martin et al., 2020) that drives home the win-win created by feeling more connected to nature was conducted by researchers in the U.K. and published in the April issue of The Journal of Environmental Psychology.
This paper, “Nature Contact, Nature Connectedness and Associations With Health, Wellbeing and Pro-Environmental Behaviours,” reports that adults who visit natural spaces at least once a week and feel a sense of connectedness to nature tend to have better psychological and physical well-being and are more eco-friendly.
The cohort for this study included a representative sample (N = 4,960) of adults residing in England. Interestingly, in addition to visiting natural spaces in person, the researchers found that people who watched or listened to nature documentaries at home also reported higher levels of nature connectedness and pro-environmental household behaviors.
Four Highlights of This Study (Martin et al., 2020)
- Visiting nature ≥ once/week was associated with better health.
- Nature connectedness was positively related to eudaimonic well-being.
- Nature connectedness was positively associated with pro-environmental behaviors.
- Nature documentaries were positively associated with pro-environmental behavior.
“Our results suggest that physically and psychologically reconnecting with nature can be beneficial for human health and well-being, and at the same time encourages individuals to act in ways which protect the health of the planet,” first author Leann Martin said in a news release.
“These findings give vital new insights of the need to not just increase contact with nature, but about the sorts of experience that really help people build an emotional connection, which is key to unlocking health benefits as well as inspiring people to taking action to help their environment,” Marian Spain, who is the chief executive of Natural England (a government advisory committee that protects England’s nature and landscapes for people to enjoy) added. “We look forward to using the research as we work with our many partners to support more people from all walks of life to benefit from thriving nature.”