Antecedent factors which influence adult engagement with nature are underexplored given the human health benefits strongly associated with nature exposure. Formative pathways and impediments to nature contact merit understanding as they may contribute to later-life health disparities. This qualitative study contributes insights into the phenomenon of nature engagementusing a phenomenological qualitative study design. Qualitative data analysis retrospectively examined the motivational origins of nature-seeking attitudes and behaviors that culminate in measurable nature exposure. We probed experiential pathways and attitudes toward nature engagement among adults purposefully sampled across U.S. regions, age, race/ethnicity, and urbanicity.Ten semi-structured focus group discussions were conducted with consenting participants (N=126) in four U.S. metropolitan regions, with discussions recorded, transcribed, and analyzed following Braun and Clarke’s phases of thematic analysis. Formative influences and causes of separation remain valid under each exposure model but in different combinations and weights, thereby framing who gets to experience nature and how this occurs as an environmental justice as well as epidemiological concern. Gaps in experience identified among low-income urban youth make accessing nature more difficult for this group, factors which often carry into adulthood.
This article presents an integrated theoretical framework to study the socioenvironmental attributes of the nature experience as a basic health behavior. After first reviewing existing literature on theories behind nature exposure, we discuss social cognitive theory (SCT) to explain individual nature experience through the model's triadic dynamic of environment, cognitions, and behaviors. We then expand beyond SCT's focus on the individual to examine structural and societal spheres of influence on nature experience found in ecological systems theory and ecosocial theory. In moving from proximal to distal influences, we identify the core constructs of each theory that may reinforce or deter decisions inclining individuals toward nature engagement. In synthesizing aspects of these three theories, we propose an integrated theoretical framework of nature experience distinguished by three ideas. First, individual-level formative influences in nature pervade higher level ecologies as a learned social behavior. Second, nature experience happens within multiple systems and timepoints. Third, social relationships within historical processes shape contextual factors of the nature experience, resulting in disparities in nature access and nature responses that manifest heterogeneously. Theorizing behind nature experience can inform why this occurs. We offer suggestions for further research to build on the groundwork put forth here: for hypothesizing around present observations, for collecting data to confirm and/or refute parts of the theory, and for further hypothesis generation inspired by the theory to inform the research agenda. In conclusion, we consider the practical implications of theory underlying nature experience as a health behavior relevant to research, interventions, and policy.
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.
Lockdown aiming at slowing COVID-19 transmission has altered nature accessibility patterns, creating quasi-experimental conditions to assess if retracted nature contact and perceived nature deprivation influence physical and emotional wellbeing. We measure through on-line survey methods (n = 529) how pandemic mandates limiting personal movement and outdoor nature access within the United States affect self-assessed nature exposure, perceived nature deprivation, and subsequent flourishing as measured by the Harvard Flourishing Index. Results indicate that perceived nature deprivation strongly associates with local nature contact, time in nature, and access to municipal nature during the pandemic, after controlling for lockdown mandates, job status, household composition, and sociodemographic variables. Our hypothesis is that individuals with strong perceived nature deprivation under COVID-19 leads to diminished wellbeing proved true. Interaction models of flourishing showed positive modification of nature affinity with age and qualitative modification of nature deprivation with race. Our results demonstrate the potential of local nature contact to support individual wellbeing in a background context of emotional distress and social isolation, important in guiding public health policies beyond pandemics.
The global rise of urbanization has led to the formation of surface urban heat islands and surface urban cool islands. Urban heat islands have been shown to increase thermal discomfort, which increases heat stress and heat-related diseases. In Kuwait, a hyper-arid desert climate, most of the population lives in urban and suburban areas. In this study, we characterized the spatial distribution of land surface temperatures and investigated the presence of urban heat and cool effects in Kuwait. We used historical Moderate-Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) Terra satellite 8-day composite land surface temperature (LST) from 2001 to 2017. We calculated the average LSTs of the urban/suburban governorates and compared them to the average LSTs of the rural and barren lands. We repeated the analysis for daytime and nighttime LST. During the day, the temperature difference (urban/suburban minus versus governorates) was −1.1 °C (95% CI; −1.2, −1.00, p < 0.001) indicating a daytime urban cool island. At night, the temperature difference (urban/suburban versus rural governorates) became 3.6 °C (95% CI; 3.5, 3.7, p < 0.001) indicating a nighttime urban heat island. In light of rising temperatures in Kuwait, this work can inform climate change adaptation efforts in the country including urban planning policies, but also has the potential to improve temperature exposure assessment for future population health studies.
This essay first reviews the empirical evidence regarding differential relationships between all-cause mortality and multiple dimensions of PWB (e.g., life purpose, mastery, positive affect, life satisfaction, optimism). Then, individual-level positive psychology interventions aimed at increasing PWB and tested in randomized-controlled trials are reviewed as these allow for easy implementation and potentially broad outreach to improve population well-being, in concert with efforts targeting other established social determinants of health. Several PWB dimensions relate to mortality, with varying strength of evidence. Many of positive psychology trials indicate small-to-moderate improvements in PWB; rigorous institution-level interventions are comparatively few, but preliminary results suggest benefits as well. Examples of existing health policies geared towards the improvement of population well-being are also presented. Future avenues of well-being epidemiological and intervention research, as well as policy implications, are discussed. Although research in the fields of behavioral and psychosomatic medicine, as well as health psychology have substantially contributed to the science of PWB, this body of work has been somewhat overlooked by the public health community. Yet, the growing interest in documenting well-being, in addition to examining its determinants and consequences at a population level may provoke a shift in perspective. To cultivate optimal well-being—mental, physical, social, and spiritual—consideration of a broader set of well-being measures, rigorous studies, and interventions that can be disseminated is critically needed.
Yueqing’s Healthy Future is a context-based analysis for improving urban health against a background of unprecedented regional population transition in China’s mid-tier cities. This extended case study considers how China’s economic ascendancy, having ignited an epidemiological transition from communicable diseases more prevalent in rural areas toward largely preventable, non-communicable diseases typical of twenty-first century urban lifestyles, can facilitate more sustainable models of future urban development. Yueqing’s Healthy Future begins as sustainable infrastructure design within a framework of measurable standards to intentionally redress China’s environmental health crisis and resulting urban health problems. Key determinates for urban livability are amply addressed: urban infrastructure design, the built environment, the incorporation of nature, quality of life, and health and wellness. Prescriptive guidance to optimize urban health and long-term sustainability in the process of urban growth and development accompanies this case study: urban climate change resilience, urban mobility, and strategies for healthier buildings. This assessment includes recommendations by a joint research team from the Harvard Graduate School of Design and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Although these proposals reflect actual climatic, ecological, and environmental policy conditions of Yueqing, China and thus are tailored to improve that city’s sustainability profile, the recommendations may inform urban projects elsewhere with similar urban infrastructure and ecological conditions already in place.
Greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories conducted at state and regional levels serve to quantify long- term emissions trends and set benchmarks against which to evaluate the effectiveness of state government-mandated emissions reductions. GHG inventories which incompletely account for land use, land change, and forestry (LUCF) due to insufficient measurement tools discount the value of terrestrial carbon (C) sinks. In consequence, sink preservation is often omitted from regional land use planning. This paper proposes an accounting methodology which estimates foregone C sequestration derived LUCF change in the southern New England State of Connecticut (CT). The Natural Capital Project’s InVEST program provided a template for modeling C storage and sequestration for CT’s land class categories. LandSat mapping of long-term land cover patterns in CT conducted by CLEAR at the University of CT served as input data for InVEST computer modeling of C sequestration, both realized and foregone due to LUCF.