Spending time in nature may improve well being: Study

Spending time in nature may improve well being: Study

Feeling low? Try hiking or spending time outdoors, say scientists who have found that engaging with natural environment contributes to a person's overall well-being.

Researchers, including those from Oregon State University (OSU) in the US, analysed results from more than 4,400 respondents to an online survey.

They used about 13 different metrics to illustrate the relationship between overall life satisfaction and engaging with the natural environment. Among those metrics were community activities, access to wild resources, stress eased by time outdoors, and trust in policymakers.

Researchers found that 11 of the 13 had a positive correlation to overall life satisfaction.

They quantified the relationship between well-being and six common mechanisms by which nature affects well-being: social and cultural events, trust in governance, access to local wild resources, sense of place, outdoor recreation, and psychological benefits from time outdoors.

"The links between ecological conditions, like drinking water and air quality, and objective well-being have been studied quite a bit," said Kelly Biedenweg of OSU.

"However, the connection between various aspects of engaging the natural environment and overall subjective well- being have rarely been looked at," Biedenweg said.

"We wanted to identify the relative importance of diverse, nature-oriented experiences on a person's overall life satisfaction assessment and statistically prove the relationship between happiness/life satisfaction and engaging with nature in many different ways," she said.

"Whether people feel like things are fair and they have a voice in process of making decisions and whether governance is transparent - those are the foundations of why people even can interact with nature," she said.

"The fact that trust in governance was a significant predictor of life satisfaction – in fact, the most statistically significant predictor of the ones we looked at – it was nice to see that come out of the research. The way we manage is the gateway to people being able to get livelihoods and satisfaction from nature," Biedenweg said. The study was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

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