Nature a turn-off for teenagers, study finds

Teenagers are less connected to nature than any other age group, with exam pressure and social media to blame, according to new research from the RSPB and the University of Essex.

The study, which collected data from nearly 2,500 people, revealed a steep decline in interest in nature as people go from childhood into adolescence, with 15-16-year-old feeling the least connected to nature.

This then rose into the early 20s where it remained steady into retirement.

With the exceptions of people in their late 20s, men also showed a lower connection with nature than women.

Researchers speculated teenagers lose interest in nature because of exams and an over-reliance on social media. However, they say they would like the study to be part of a long-term project to see if this lack of connection with nature is a generational trait, or if current teenagers remain less connected to the natural environment throughout their lifetime.

The RSPB is developing its research into people’s connection to nature as studies suggest that people with a greater connection to nature are more likely to behave positively towards the environment, wildlife and habitats.

Dr Joelene Hughes, from the RSPB Centre for Conservation Science, said: ‘This detailed investigation of connection and age has raised a lot of interesting questions about what personal, social and environmental factors affect people’s connection to nature, plus how conservation interventions can be more effective in developing people’s connection to nature at different ages.

In February, a Danish study revealed children who grow up with around green spaces have less risk of developing various mental illnesses later in life.

Researchers from Aarhus University in Denmark, studied satellite data from 1985 to 2013 and mapped the presence of green space around the childhood homes of almost one million Danes. They then compared this data with the risk of developing one of 16 different mental disorders later in life.

Last year a report from charity Fields in Trust claimed that visits to Britain’s parks and green spaces save the NHS £111m a year through prevented GP visits.

Thomas Barrett

Thomas Barrett

Journalist. Follow him on Twitter

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