Dear parents, please take note. Researchers have found that children who feel connected to nature are also more likely to be happier. The study, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, showed that connectedness to nature makes children happier due to their tendency to perform sustainable and pro-ecological behaviours.
"Parents and teachers should promote children to have more significant contact or exposure to nature, because our results indicate that exposure to nature is related to the connection with it, and in turn, with sustainable behaviours and happiness," said study researcher Laura Berrera-Hernandez from Sonora Institute of Technology in Mexico.
'Nature deficit disorder'
The researchers stated that disconnection to nature termed 'nature deficit disorder', may contribute to the destruction of the planet, as the lack of a bond with the natural world is unlikely to result in the desire to protect it. For the findings, the research team recruited 296 children between the ages of nine and 12 from a northwestern Mexican city.
All the participants were given a self-administered scale completed in school to measure their connectedness to nature, sustainable behaviours (pro-ecological behaviour, frugality, altruism, and equity) and happiness. This included measuring their agreement with statements about their connectedness to nature, such as 'Humans are part of the natural world' and statements about their sustainable behaviours, such as 'I separate empty bottles to recycle'.
The researchers found that in children, feeling connected to nature had positive associations for sustainability practices and behaviours, and also led to children reporting higher levels of perceived happiness. This suggests that children who perceive themselves to be more connected to nature tend to perform more sustainable behaviours and therefore also have greater levels of happiness.
Previous research on adults had suggested a relationship between connectedness to nature and the development of pro-environmental behaviours, and the happiness derived from these. Despite the study's limitations of only testing children from the same city, the results provided insight into the power of positive psychology of sustainability in children.