A recently-published report by Natural England concludes that supporting human and environmental health, needs both contact and connection with nature.  Furthermore, a new national measure of nature connectedness shows connection to nature is good for people’s psychological wellbeing and pro-environmental behaviours.

Natural England says that nature connectedness is a relatively new and measurable psychological construct that describes our sense of relationship with the natural world.  It encompasses our emotional and cognitive relationship with nature and our sense of place within it.  Activities that engage our senses, emotions, compassion, appreciation of beauty and that create personal meaning have all been identified as pathways to develop nature connectedness.  It follows, Natural England says, that nature connectedness is very different to mere contact with nature, which is typically measured through how frequently we visit nature or for how long.

The new report uses data collected through MENE, the Monitor of Engagement with the Natural Environment survey, and summarises the key findings from work on nature connectedness, undertaken by Natural England in collaboration with UK academic and voluntary sector partners.  Natural England continues to measure nature connection through the new People and Nature survey.

The report:

  • developed and validated a measure of nature connectedness that can be used in national surveys.  See results published by The University of Derby.
  • used this new measure to reveal that whilst our contact with nature is linked to our general health, it is our nature connectedness that is linked to our psychological wellbeing and  pro-conservation behaviours.
  • shows that the strength of the relationships between nature connectedness and these outcomes is stronger than those seen with mere nature contact.  For example, people with high nature connectedness were nearly twice as likely to report that their lives were worthwhile or take part in pro-conservation behaviours compared to those with low nature connectedness. See results published by Plymouth University.
  • revealed that nature connectedness dips in the early teenage years, but that a strong relationship exists between levels of nature connectedness among adults and children in the same household.
  • recommended that to better support society’s health, wellbeing and environmental outcomes we need to adapt our policies and practices to increase both contact and connection with nature.

The research partners are now looking to build insight both nationally and internationally to better understand how levels of nature connectedness relate to behaviour change, and by running delivery pilots, to understand what works best to support nature connectedness among different people in different contexts.

If you are interested in getting involved and supporting this work, or in the new People and Nature survey, please let Martin Gilchrist know: Martin.Gilchrist@naturalengland.org.uk