A recent study from the University of Cambridge has revealed that children with a connection to nature during the first COVID-19 lockdown showed less behavioral and emotional problems than children without that connection. The study also found that children from wealthy economic backgrounds tended to increase their connection to nature during the pandemic.
The results of the study suggest that kids from less affluent backgrounds likely experienced more mental health challenges during COVID-19 because they had a lower connection with nature compared to their wealthier peers.
“We know that access to and engagement with nature is associated with wide-ranging benefits in children and adults, including lowering levels of anxiety and depression, and reducing stress,” said study first author Dr. Samantha Friedman.
“The COVID-19 lockdowns meant that children no longer had their normal school activities, routines and social interactions. The removal of these barriers gave us a novel context to look at how changes in connection with nature affected mental health.”
“Connecting with nature may have helped buffer some UK children against the effects of the lockdown, but we found that children from less affluent families were less likely to have increased their connection to nature during that time.”
The study used an online survey to collect data on 376 families with children from three to seven years old. Over half of these families reported that children increased their connection to nature during the pandemic. Not only does the research point to the benefits of a connection to nature for children, it also gives actionable data.
“Our study revealed the wide range of ways that parents can help children get more connected to nature. This might be a bit daunting to some, but it doesn’t have to be camping in the woods and foraging for food – it really can be as simple as going for a walk near your house or sitting outside for ten minutes a day,” said Dr. Friedman.
The study is published in the journal People and Nature.