Time Spent in Nature Is Associated with Increased Pro-Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors


Nicole V. DeVille, Linda P. Tomasso, Olivia P. Stoddard, Grete E. Wilt, Teresa H. Horton, Kathleen L. Wolf, Eric Brymer, Peter H. Kahn Jr., and Peter James (2021). Time Spent in Nature Is Associated with Increased Pro-Environmental Attitudes and Behaviors. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(14), 7498. MDPI AG.


Urbanization, screen dependency, and the changing nature of childhood and parenting have led to increased time indoors, creating physical and emotional distancing from nature and time spent in natural environments. Substantial evidence from observational and intervention studies indicates that overall time spent in nature leads to increased perceived value for connectedness to nature and, subsequently, greater pro-environmental attitudes and behaviors (PEAB). This narrative review of the recent literature evaluates associations between time spent in nature with values ascribed to nature and nature connectedness, as well as PEAB. We discuss the influence of nature exposure and education in childhood on subsequent development of PEAB in adulthood. We analyze theoretical frameworks applied to this research as well as metrics employed, populations studied, and individual and societal values before presenting limitations of this research. We conclude with suggestions for future research directions based on current knowledge, underscoring the importance of promoting time spent in nature and PEAB in the face of growing challenges to planetary health. Research indicates that overall time spent in nature, regardless of the quality of environmental conditions, leads to increased perceived values ascribed to nature, which is associated with PEAB; however, this literature is predominantly cross-sectional. Furthermore, personal and social factors may influence PEAB. Thus, more longitudinal studies that consider these factors are needed to assess the duration and frequency of time spent in nature in childhood and its impact on PEAB throughout the life course. Identifying contexts which cultivate PEAB and reverse alienation from nature beginning in childhood may better sensitize adults to the urgency of environmental issues such as climate change, which adversely impact individual and environmental health.