Is Nature Healthy

The Biophilia Hypothesis – Is Nature Healthier For Us?

Our latest concept Náttúra by Kitchen Theory is heavily influenced by nature (find out more about the concept), this has led us to explore nature from a gastronomic point of view and in doing so we have uncovered some fascinating research about the effects of nature on us as humans. As with all interesting stuff we stumble across, this seemed like something definitely worth sharing!

From an anecdotal perspective, many of us can recollect a pleasant walk on the beach, the soothing sound of the sea and the unique smell of the fresh sea air. Perhaps a walk in the woods, where we felt soothed by the sound of the wind in the trees and the crisp smell of leaves. Experiencing these unique moments of peace, happiness, or well being  in the context of nature is common to most humans, and many of us can relate to these experiences and the associated feelings.

So; is nature actually beneficial for us? Does it make us ‘healthier’?

Elderly adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space

Elderly adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space

By nature we are referring to open natural spaces, this doesn’t necessarily have to be a deep dense  forest or a sweeping coast line, it could be as simple as your back garden or local park. Recent research suggests it does. Science Daily stated in 2009,”elderly adults tend to live longer if their homes are near a park or other green space, regardless of their social or economic status. College students do better on cognitive tests when their dorm windows view natural settings. Children with ADHD have fewer symptoms after outdoor activities in lush environments. Residents of public housing complexes report better family interactions when they live near trees.”

Research supports the theory that our relationship with nature is a fundamental component of maintaining good health. This “biophilia hypothesis” suggests that there is an innate affiliation of human beings to other living organisms, both flora and fauna, and perhaps even an innate bond with nature more generally. In 1984 Roger S. Ulrich published a study which concluded exposure to nature even through a window may influence recovery from surgery, proving patients were discharged more quickly, needed less painkilling drugs and were generally  deemed to be more cooperative by staff.

According to Frances Kuo, a professor of natural resources and environmental science and psychology at the University of Illinois. “Nature is essential to the physical, psychological and social well-being of the human animal… Humans are evolved organisms and the environment is our habitat”

Kuo and her team look at humans in much the same way that those who study animal behavior have looked at animals in the wild to see the effect of a changing habitat on this species. They have found that people living in areas that lack trees or other natural features undergo patterns of social, psychological and physical breakdown that are strikingly similar to those observed in other animals that have been deprived of their natural habitat. “In animals what you see is increases in aggression, you see disrupted parenting patterns, their social hierarchies are disrupted,” she said. Even more disturbing is that considerable research has found that violence and aggression are highest in urban settings devoid of trees and grass, for example. Overall the research would suggest that humans suffer a variety of negative social effects when living in barren landscapes.

A large-scale study in the Netherlands found that general health is predicted by the amount of green space within a 1-mile or 3-mile radius

A large-scale study in the Netherlands found that general health is predicted by the amount of green space within a 1-mile or 3-mile radius

Mitchell, R. and Popham, F. conducted a study in 2008 which looked at the effect of exposure to natural
environment on health inequalities.  Its findings concluded income deprivation and mortality differed significantly across the green space exposure groups for mortality.

We also see an increasing number of news stories suggesting that children who spend too much time staring at screens may develop attention deficits, hyperactivity, or depression – this is being termed “nature deficit disorder”. So while children may be bearing the brunt of this nature deficit, it makes plenty of sense that as adult we too are experiencing negative health consequences.

So what does this mean for us city dwellers? Well first of all let’s put all of this all into perspective; these studies are by no means conclusive and the fact that you don’t have a back garden or park within walking distance isn’t going to turn you into a psychopath. What they do is draw our attention to the fact that as humans; nature is our natural habitat (we evolved outdoors and among nature for most of the last two million years of our species’ existence). They also highlight the fact that we are in many cases loosing touch with it from our daily lives and that this can have a negative impact on the quality of our lives. The question is do you actually have a ‘relationship’ with nature?

Perhaps the solution is quite simple.. get off the iPad and go for a stroll once a day or make time for it during your weekends, perhaps that garden could do with a bit of work or if your feeling really adventurous a camping trip may be in order*!

 

*If all else fails get a taste of Náttúra with us!

 

For more information on all the above please visit the source links:

http://www.news.illinois.edu/news/09/0213nature.html

http://chriskresser.com/go_outside

 

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