2021 journal article
Connection to Nature Boosts Adolescents’ Mental Well-Being during the COVID-19 Pandemic
Sustainability, 13(21), 12297.
Growing evidence suggests that connection to nature may be linked to mental health and well-being. Behavioral changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic could negatively affect adolescents’ connection to nature, subsequently impacting health and well-being. We explored the relationship between connection to nature and well-being before and during the pandemic through a nationally representative survey of adolescents across the United States (n = 624) between April and June 2020. Survey items focused on connection to nature, mental well-being, and participation in outdoor activities before and during the pandemic. Paired-sample t-tests revealed declines in connection to nature, mental well-being, and participation in outdoor activities during the pandemic. Multiple linear regression analyses examining connection to nature’s mediating role between outdoor activity participation and mental well-being indicated that connection to nature fueled higher levels of mental well-being at both time intervals. Z scores comparing connection to nature’s mediating role between outdoor activity participation and mental well-being between time intervals indicate that during the pandemic, the direct effect of outdoor activities on mental well-being increased, generating a greater impact than before the pandemic. This study illustrates how the health and well-being benefits associated with adolescents’ outdoor activities are reinforced when those activities also foster a stronger connection to nature.