A national study that was co-led by the late Yale Professor Stephen R. Kellert, found an alarming disconnect between people and nature in the United States
— but also widespread opportunities for reconnecting.
In a study of nearly 12,000 American adults and children, the researchers found that more than half of adults report spending five hours or less in nature each week — and most are satisfied with this amount of time. And parents reported that their 8- to 12-year-old children spend three times as many hours with computers and televisions each week as they do playing outside.
In the study, “The Nature of Americans National Report: Disconnection and Recommendations for Reconnection,”
a team of researchers offers 22 recommendations built around the premise that a connection to nature is not “a dispensable amenity” but essential for the quality of life, health, social well-being, prosperity and productivity of all Americans.
“Connecting Americans and nature must be a vibrant, ongoing effort supported by all members of the public,” they write. “The state of the natural world and our place within it cannot afford for us to act slowly. We must act now to ensure that present and future generations are connected with nature.”
Despite the challenges, the study suggests that there are opportunities. More than three-quarters of adults rated contact with nature as very or extremely important for their physical health and emotional outlook. And one-quarter of parents said contact with nature improved their child’s weight, attention span, energy, anxiety, asthmas, or other adverse health outcomes.
In addition, seven out of 10 children surveyed said they “would rather explore woods and trees than play on neat-looking grass.” Also, eight out of 10 said they enjoy activities such as climbing trees and camping.
The principal investigators were Kellert, a revered professor of social ecology
at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, and David J. Case, the founder and president of DJ Case & Associates and practitioner in the field of human dimensions of wildlife and natural resource management.