With so many amazing technological advancements, it can be hard to connect back with nature when it feels so far removed. We know how beneficial nature is for our overall well-being and how important it is for us to maintain that connection. Nature has been shown to decrease stress and anxiety, improve your mood, improve your physical health, along with so many other benefits. So are humans today really more disconnected from nature than in the past or is that just an illusion? And if we are more disconnected from nature today than in the past, should that be a cause for concern?
Research has shown that we are in fact much more disconnected from nature today than even just a century ago. A study conducted in 2017 analyzed cultural products (such as books, movies, songs, advertisements, etc.) for references to nature and found that since the 1950s there has been a dramatic decline in references to nature (Kesebir, 2017). They chose to “measure” our connection with nature through cultural products because they are a direct reflection of the social context of any given time period. Seeing a decline in references to nature within these products highlights a decline in our overall connection with nature. The explanation this study found for why we have become so disconnected from nature since the 1950s was the trend of urbanization and the rise of television. People were slowly being cut off from natural surroundings and the most popular form of entertainment, television, was encouraging people to stay indoors. In more recent years, the rise of smartphones has only widened that gap between humans and nature.
So is having a low connection to nature a problem? A study from June 2022 focused on people who have low connections with nature in order to study the effects of nature disconnection. The study used survey questions to monitor participants’ engagement with the natural environment as well as their psychological well being. The research found that participants who were “less connected” to nature were more likely to have poor life satisfaction, suffer from ill health, and less likely to partake in pro-environmental behaviors like recycling or buying local (Barrable, Booth, 2022). The study also found that unemployed, single males aged 16-24 years old who didn’t own a house were at the highest risk of being disconnected from nature. Working, unless working remotely, often forces people to get out of the house which provides an opportunity to connect with nature even if only momentarily. Owning a home usually means you are responsible for maintaining the home which could force you to spend time outdoors maintaining any outdoor spaces. It seems as though becoming less connected with nature does have several negative impacts on our overall well being and certain groups are at an increased risk for becoming disconnected.
While there is a lot of research on the ways that being connected to nature can benefit humans, there is still much more research to be done on nature disconnection. The research that has been conducted has shown a definite decrease in connections between humans and nature over time, especially since the 1950s. It has also shown the potential for negative consequences for those who feel disconnected from nature. There are so many ways to bring little bits of nature into your daily lives to foster that connection – check out some of the other articles on the Humans in Nature website for some inspiration!
In order to keep this conversation going, we have listed questions to discuss. Please feel free to comment below and share your thoughts, reply to others, or leave other discussion questions!
- What are other ways to “measure” human’s connections with nature?
- Is it possible technology could help us reconnect with nature?
- How do you connect with nature?
- What does your relationship with the natural environment look like?
- What are more unexpected ways humans can connect with nature?
- Do we subconsciously connect with nature?
- What can humans do to reconnect with nature in our modern society?
Kesebir, S., & Kesebir, P. (2017, September 20). How modern life became disconnected from nature. Greater Good. Retrieved September 21, 2022, from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_modern_life_became_disconnected_from_nature
Barrable, A., & Booth, D. (2022). Disconnected: What Can We Learn from Individuals with Very Low Nature Connection? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(13). https://doi-org.proxy2.library.illinois.edu/10.3390/ijerph19138021
Kesebir, S., & Kesebir, P. (2017). A Growing Disconnection From Nature Is Evident in Cultural Products. Perspectives on psychological science : a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, 12(2), 258–269. https://doi.org/10.1177/1745691616662473
Richardson, M., Hussain, Z., & Griffiths, M. D. (2018). Problematic smartphone use, nature connectedness, and anxiety. Journal of behavioral addictions, 7(1), 109–116. https://doi.org/10.1556/2006.7.2018.10