Losing contact with nature

Cox, D.T.C., Hudson, H.L., Shanahan, D.F., Fuller, R.A. & Gaston, K.J. 2017. The rarity of direct experiences of nature in an urban population. Landscape and Urban Planning 160, 79-84. shutterstock_149634605

As people live more urbanised lifestyles there is potential to lose daily contact with nature, diminishing access to the wide range of associated health benefits of interacting with nature. Experiences of nature vary widely across populations, but this variation is poorly understood. We surveyed 1023 residents of an urban population in the UK to measure four distinctly different nature interactions: indirect (viewing nature through a window at work and at home), incidental (spending time outside at work), intentional (time spent in private gardens) and intentional (time spent in public parks). Scaled-up to the whole study population, accumulation curves of the total number of hours per week that people were exposed to each type of nature interaction showed that 75% of nature interactions were experienced by half the population. Moreover, 75% of the interactions of a type where people were actually present in nature were experienced by just 32% of the population. The average hours each individual experienced nature per week varied across interactions: indirect (46.0 ± 27.3 SD), incidental (6.4 ± 12.7 SD), intentional-gardens (2.5 ± 2.9 SD) and intentional-parks (2.3 ± 2.7 SD). Experiencing nature regularly appears to be the exception rather than the norm, with a person’s connection to nature being positively associated with incidental and intentional experiences. This novel study provides baseline information regarding how an urban population experiences different types of nature. Deconstructing nature experience will pave the way for developing recommendations for targeted health outcomes. [Image from Shutterstock]