Nature & social cohesion

Oh, R.R.Y., Zhang, Y., Nghiem, L.T.P., Chang, C.-C., Tan, C.L.Y., Quazi, S.A., Shanahan, D.F., Lin, B.B., Gaston, K.J., Fuller, R.A. & Carrasco, R.L. 2022. Connection to nature and time spent in gardens predicts social cohesion. Urban Forestry and Urban Greening 74, 127655.

A person’s health and wellbeing are contingent on the amount of social support that they receive. Similarly, experiencing nature has been shown to improve people’s health and wellbeing. However, we do not know how relationships between social cohesion, nature experiences and nature connection could interrelate and vary across different types of urban green spaces, and in non-Westernised cultures. We conducted a study on 1249 residents in Singapore, a tropical city-state, and measured three dimensions of social cohesion (i.e. general social cohesion; trust and sense of community; and social interactions), various types of nature experiences (i.e. amount of green space around one’s residence; frequency and duration of urban green space visits; frequency and duration of visits to gardens), and three dimensions of one’s connection to nature: self-identity with nature, desire to experience nature, and environmental concern (using the nature relatedness scale). We found that people who strongly identify with nature, who enjoy being in nature, and who had more frequent gardens visits were more likely to have a stronger sense of social cohesion across two dimensions. However, those with stronger environmental concern reported an overall weaker sense of social cohesion, possibly due to the perception that society’s contributions to conserve environmental problems was insufficient. Further, people who gardened more frequently were also more likely to visit green spaces, self-identify with nature and exhibit a stronger desire to experience nature. We propose that strategies targeted at encouraging people to engage in nature-related, collaborative activities at the local community level, such as spending time in local gardens, will increase urban residents’ daily nature experiences and its associated benefits such as improving social cohesion.