Published: 27th February 2020
Staying connected to nature makes children happier, says new Mexican study
"Staying connected to nature makes children happier," says a study at Mexico. The study explains that pro-ecological behaviours help in the sustainable development of an individual.
Nature is the best medicine for all human ailments, and a new study suggests that staying connected to nature is known to make children happier. The study has been published in the journal - Frontiers in Psychology and was conducted by a team of researchers from the Sonora Institute of Technology (ITSON) lead by Dr Laura Berrera-Hernandez.
The study has shown for the first time that connectedness to nature makes children happier due to their tendency to perform sustainable and pro-ecological behaviours.
As the planet faces growing threats from a warming climate, deforestation, and mass species extinction, research focusing on the relationships between humans and nature is increasingly urgent to find solutions to today's environmental issues.
As younger generations will be the future custodians of the planet, work is being done by researchers on how we can promote sustainable behaviours and develop environmental care in children.
The researchers state that disconnection to nature termed 'nature deficit disorder', may contribute to the destruction of the planet, as the lack of a bond with the natural world is unlikely to result in the desire to protect it."Being aware of the interrelation and dependence between ourselves and nature, appreciating all of the nuances of nature, and feeling a part of it," said Berrera-Hernandez.
The study recruited 296 children between the ages of 9 and 12 from a northwestern Mexican city. All the participants were given a self-administered scale completed in school to measure their connectedness to nature, sustainable behaviours (pro-ecological behaviour, frugality, altruism, and equity) and happiness.
This included measuring their agreement with statements about their connectedness to nature, such as 'Humans are part of the natural world' and statements about their sustainable behaviours, such as 'I separate empty bottles to recycle'.
The researchers found that in children, feeling connected to nature had positive associations for sustainability practices and behaviours, and also led to children reporting higher levels of perceived happiness.
This suggests that children who perceive themselves to be more connected to nature tend to perform more sustainable behaviours and therefore also have greater levels of happiness.
Previous research on adults had suggested a relationship between connectedness to nature and the development of pro-environmental behaviours, and the happiness derived from these.
Despite the study's limitations of only testing children from the same city, the results provide insight into the power of positive psychology of sustainability in children.
Deepening our understanding of the relationships between these variables may provide practical insights for the added psychological benefits of promoting sustainable behaviours in children. If we are to develop environmental care and concern in younger generations, then initiatives to encourage and enable young people to spend more time in nature is a must.
"Parents and teachers should promote children to have more significant contact or exposure to nature, because our results indicate that exposure to nature is related to the connection with it, and in turn, with sustainable behaviours and happiness," added Berrera-Hernandez.