Nature & Mental Health
Figure 1: Nature & Mental Health. Exposure to nature as a child correlates with mental well-being as an adult.
You’ve probably heard that nature is great for mental health and well-being in adults. New studies have shown that it may be just as important for kids.
Kids who are exposed to more nature grow up to have better mental wellbeing than their peers who were not as well exposed.
In this post, we will lay out the top benefits of nature for kids, backed by scientific research.
Nature & Overall Mental health
Figure 2: High exposure to nature as a child correlated with better mental health as an adult.
In one large European study, researchers found that childhood exposure to nature correlated with better overall mental health.
Researchers surveyed 3,585 volunteers across four European cities on their childhood nature exposure and measured their current mental health with the SF-36, a validated mental health metric.
They found that those who were not exposed to nature as children had significantly worse mental health as adults. Nature exposure included a wide range of activities including both long hikes and short breaks in the backyard.
Source: Low Childhood Nature Exposure is Associated with Worse Mental Health in Adulthood
Nature Exposure & Education
Figure 3: Nature Exposure & Education. High nature exposure as a child was associated with a higher likelihood of high educational attainment.
Childhood exposure to nature also may help kids stay in school and get better grades.
In study cited above, researchers found that those who were more exposed to nature as children were significantly more likely to attend college and graduate school.
Those were less exposed to nature as children were more likely to have low educational achievement.
Nature Exposure & Stress
Figure 4: Nature Exposure & Stress. High nature exposure was associated with lower distress as a response to stressful life events.
Children exposed to nature also may be mentally stronger in the face of stress.
A study found that kids who faced stressful life events were less negatively affected by these events if they had more nature exposure, even after controlling for socioeconomic status.
Kids exposed to nature were more likely to maintain their self-worth and calm compared to kids who were rarely exposed to nature when faced with the same level of stress.
Source: Nearby Nature: A Buffer of Life Stress among Rural Children
Tips for Nature & Well-being
Figure 5: Tips for Nature & Wellbeing.
As with all similar studies, we can only determine correlation and not causation. We can see that the kids who were exposed to nature also tend to be mentally healthier, but we do not know whether it is nature exposure causing this effect.
Based on what we do know about nature, walking, and physical activity, it is safe to say that being outside is a good thing.
It definitely beats social media, gaming, and watching TV.
In a generation that is being defined by Snapchat, Facebook, and Instagram, taking time to go for a walk in the park may be more important than ever.
You don’t need to live in Colorado to get all the benefits of nature. Just going for a walk in the park can be helpful.
Research shows that when it comes to walking, how often you walk may be just as important as how far you walk.