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Children’s connection to nature during pandemic lockdowns

child on swing

During the first year of the pandemic, ‘lockdowns’ were a common public health strategy to reduce the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This disruption to daily life may have both long-term positive and negative consequences for individuals.

A recent article – ‘Understanding changes to children’s connection to nature during the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for child well-being’ – looked to address how the pandemic affected disconnection between children and the natural world.

Being able to have access to and make use of green spaces has been associated with the reduction of stress, improvements in emotional and behavioral problems, and helps lower levels of anxiety and depression. 1

It is suggested that during the pandemic, three pathways have emerged that can be associated with the changes in the human-nature connection:

  1. The opportunity pathway, which is associated with both the positive and negative changes to the opportunities available to access and engage with nature; for example people have more time available to be outdoors, but they’re limited to where they can go.
  • The capability pathway, which is dependent on the individuals’ capacity (both physically and psychologically) to engage with nature; basically—are you willing to spend more time outdoors?
  • The motivation pathway—having the willingness, drive, and desire to engage with nature

Children who had immediate access to an outdoor space had a more positive association with nature, than those who were now limited to their access to an outdoor space, according to the study.

The researchers suggest that this connection may help buffer some of the children against the adverse consequences associated with the initial lockdown, but also shines a light on the fact that there are areas that need improvement—such as increasing the access to nature in lower-income areas.

According to the authors, it may be important to note that the initial survey was taken during the first lockdown period of 2020 (spring/early summer)—when the weather was nice and people were wanting to be outdoors.

Reference:

1) Friedman S, Imrie S, Fink E, Gedikoglu M, and Hughes C. (2021) ‘Understanding changes to children’s connection to nature during the COVID-19 pandemic and implications for child well-being’ People and Nature 0:1-11 DOI:10.1002/pan3.10270

Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay 

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