Authors: Zelenski, J. M. and Nisbet, E. K.
Year of publication: 2014
Publication: Environment and Behavior 46(1) pp. 3–23
In this study (2014) researchers aimed to measure differences in general connectedness to nature, and then determine whether it could predict well-being. This study wanted to especially answer, whether nature relatedness does predict happiness, or whether feelings of connectedness to nature are just more common among happy people.
Contact with nature is known to have many positive benefits on human health and well-being, even when that contact is limited. These effects are often explained with E. O. Wilson’s (1984) biophilia hypothesis: humans have an innate need to be affiliated with natural elements, as they reflect the environment we humans lived and evolved in. In addition, nature relatedness has become an important tool in understanding environmentally sustainable behaviour: it strongly predicts sustainable attitudes and behaviours even when controlling for other attitude measures. People who feel connected to nature, want to protect it.
This article consist of two studies: in the study 1, researchers assessed a variety of subjective connections and happiness indicators in student (n = 331) and community (n = 415) samples, and tested if nature relatedness was connected to well-being. The test had an online survey, where participants filled in different questionnaires to determine their connection to nature using several different standard scales (such as Nature Relatedness scale and Schultz’s Nature in Self scale) and happiness (such as Subjective Happiness scale, Vitality scale, and Centre for Epidemiological Studies Depression scale). In the study 2, various other connections were measured (n = 204). These included many which were interpersonal in nature (e.g. loneliness, attachment), and connections to cultural groups (e.g. collective identity, interdependent-self), which were then used to determine whether they overlapped with nature relatedness especially in terms of predicting happiness. Nature relatedness was also assessed in a replicative manner to study 1.
Nature relatedness remained a significant predictor of happiness (particularly positive effects).
Researchers conclude, that nature relatedness is distinct in producing happiness and cultivating it could provide a unique route to increasing environmentally sustainable behaviour. Spending more time in nature and thus nurturing the connection to it, could motivate to protect it. More studies, however, are needed to confirm this statement.
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