Researchers at the University of Washington are proposing better ways to study the link between health and exposure to the natural world.
A multi-disciplinary group of scientists analyzed existing research to come up with strategies to improve understanding of the subject. Pooja Tandon, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington and one of the authors of the study, said it is a good bet that being in nature has a positive impact.
“I think we know enough to think that nature contact is beneficial to human health, and what we are proposing is that there may be some areas where some additional research could be helpful,” Tandon said.
Their findings point future researchers in more specific directions – like what constitutes a “dose” of nature.
“Are we talking about small urban parks, are we talking about a view of nature, or are we talking about really immersing yourself in wilderness? And so figuring out better ways to measure that exposure will help us better understand the questions of dose,” said Tandon.
Tandon said other big topics for future studies include minority groups’ access to nature and the role of technology. Once there is scientific consensus on the benefits of nature to health, she said stakeholders, from individuals to institutions, will be able to address more specific questions.
“So if we think about our childcare centers and schools, you know, what are the policies for outdoor play? What kind of afterschool programs and community programs can facilitate, especially children growing up in urban environments, getting them into more nature-rich experiences? How can workplaces facilitate this?”
The study "Nature Contact and Human Health: A Research Agenda” was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.