Heritability of nature experience

Chang, C.-C., Cox, D.T.C., Fan, Q., Le Nghiem, T.P., Tan, C.L.Y., Oh, R.R.Y., Lin, B.B., Shanahan, D.F., Fuller, R.A., Gaston, K.J. & Carrasco, R.L. 2022. People’s desire to be in nature and how they experience it are partially heritable. PLoS Biology 20, e3001500.

Nature experiences have been linked to mental and physical health. Despite the importance of understanding what determines individual variation in nature experience, the role of genes has been overlooked. Here, using a twin design (TwinsUK, number of individuals = 2,306), we investigate the genetic and environmental contributions to a person’s nature orientation, opportunity (living in less urbanized areas), and different dimensions of nature experience (frequency and duration of public nature space visits and frequency and duration of garden visits). We estimate moderate heritability of nature orientation (46%) and nature experiences (48% for frequency of public nature space visits, 34% for frequency of garden visits, and 38% for duration of garden visits) and show their genetic components partially overlap. We also find that the environmental influences on nature experiences are moderated by the level of urbanization of the home district. Our study demonstrates genetic contributions to individuals’ nature experiences, opening a new dimension for the study of human–nature interactions.