” ‘Nature-deficit disorder’ is not a medical diagnosis, but a useful term—a metaphor—to describe what many of us believe are the human costs of alienation from nature: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies.
Because researchers have turned to this topic relatively recently, most of the evidence is correlative, not causal. But it tends to point in one direction: Experiences in the natural world appear to offer great benefits to psychological and physical health and the ability to learn, for children and adults. The research strongly suggests that time in nature can help many children learn to build confidence in themselves, calm themselves, and focus.”
– Richard Louv, Author of Vitamin N: 500 Ways to Enrich the Health & Happiness of Your Family & Community
One hypothesis derived from evolutionary biologist E. O. Wilson’s is called “biophilia”
A large body of research is documenting the positive impacts of nature on human flourishing—our social, psychological, and emotional life. Over 100 studies have shown that being in nature, living near nature, or even viewing nature in paintings and videos can have positive impacts on our brains, bodies, feelings, thought processes, and social interactions.
– Greater Good Science, Berkley
Most notably, the work of Frances Kuo and her colleagues finds that in poorer neighborhoods of Chicago people who live near green spaces—lawns, parks, trees—show reductions in ADHD symptoms and greater calm, as well as a stronger sense of connection to neighbors, more civility, and less violence in their neighborhoods. A later analysis confirmed that green spaces tend to have less crime.
In a study by Catharine Ward Thompson and her colleagues, the people who lived near larger areas of green space reported less stress and showed greater declines in cortisol levels over the course of the day.
In another study, participants who viewed a one-minute video of awesome nature rather than a video that made them feel happy reported feeling as though they had enough time “to get things done” and did not feel that “their lives were slipping away.” And studies have found that people who report feeling a good deal of awe and wonder and an awareness of the natural beauty around them actually show lower levels of a biomarker (IL-6) that could lead to a decreased likelihood of cardiovascular disease, depression, and autoimmune disease.