Nature and well-being: the association of nature engagement and well-being during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

Published online
11 Aug 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Phillips, T. B. & Wells, N. M. & Brown, A. H. & Tralins, J. R. & Bonter, D. N.
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Numerous studies have shown the positive association between nature engagement and well-being. During the early phases of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, nature engagement changed dramatically as mental health and well-being declined across the globe. This study examines how psychological connection to nature and engagement with nature in various forms is associated with well-being during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. Specifically, we examine which types of nature engagement (i.e. with nearby nature, through nature excursions and media-based) are more strongly associated with well-being based on measures of loneliness, rumination, pandemic emotional impact and mental health. We employed a cross-sectional online survey of adults (N = 3282) residing in the United States, 25% of whom report seldom spending time in nature. Our findings revealed that the psychological construct of connection to nature was associated with less loneliness and greater mental health. Overall, nature engagement was a consistent predictor of well-being, but different types of activities predicted varying outcomes on our four dependent variables. Greater engagement with nearby nature during the pandemic was associated with less rumination, less pandemic emotional impact and better mental health while nature excursions (e.g. camping, backpacking) and media-based nature engagement were associated with greater loneliness, more emotional impact from the pandemic and worse mental health. In addition, nature engagement via media was associated with greater rumination. Our findings suggest that promoting opportunities to increase engagement with and access to nearby nature is associated with better human well-being, especially during challenging events, and should be part of a multi-pronged approach for coping with the next public health crisis. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

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