New research at Oregon State University has shown that a variety of mechanisms for engaging nature significantly contribut to a person’s overall well-being.Among those, the study indicates, is whether people believe their surrounding environments are managed well for the earning of income and the underpinning of cultural practices as well as for the pursuit of recreation.
According to Kelly Biedenweg of OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences “whether people feel like things are fair and they have a voice in process of making decisions and whether governance is transparent — those are the foundations of why people even can interact with nature” .
With support from the U.S. National Science Foundation and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the researchers used 13 different metrics, including community activities, access to wild resources, stress eased by time outdoors and trust in policymakers, to illustrate the relationship between overall life satisfaction and engaging with the natural environment.“Eleven of the 13 (metrics) had a positive correlation to overall life satisfaction,” said Biedenweg, a social scientist who studies both how humans benefit from the natural environment and the impact human actions have on it.“The links between ecological conditions, like drinking water and air quality, and objective well-being have been studied quite a bit, but the connection between various aspects of engaging the natural environment and overall subjective well-being have rarely been looked at.”
The assistant professor explained that the purpose of the research is to identify the relative importance of diverse, nature-oriented experiences on a person’s overall life satisfaction assessment and statistically prove the relationship between happiness/life satisfaction and engaging with nature in different ways.
She and her colleagues quantified the relationship between well-being and six common mechanisms by which nature has effects on well-being: social and cultural events; trust in governance; access to local wild resources; sense of place; outdoor recreation; and psychological benefits from time outdoors.“Controlling for demographics, all were significantly related to life satisfaction,” Biedenweg was quoted as saying in a news release. “The fact that trust in governance was a significant predictor of life satisfaction — in fact, the most statistically significant predictor of the ones we looked at — it was nice to see that come out of the research. The way we manage is the gateway to people being able to get livelihoods and satisfaction from nature” ,she stated.