Benefits of nature

Americans perceive tremendous benefit from experiences in nature

Young girl blackberry hunting

The vast majority of adult Americans surveyed reported that nature is highly important for their physical health and emotional outlook. Most noted that certain smells and sounds of nature bring to mind some of their happiest memories, that being in nature provides a sense of peace, and that being in nature helps to give meaning and purpose to their lives. Nearly all the 8–12-year-old children in our study said contact with nature made them happier and healthier and deepened their relationships — in short, that exposure to nature promoted their physical, psychological, and social well-being. Their parents agreed with this assessment, with one-quarter reporting that contact with nature had improved some aspect of their child's health.

Join parents, children, and adults alike in recognizing that expenditures on children’s engagement with nature are fundamentally important investments

For children, parents, and adults in our study, nature is an important and fundamental part of growing up. Most adults cited the role of childhood experiences in nature in shaping how they think and feel — and even who they are today. The great majority of parents cited nature’s influence on their child’s growing healthy and stronger, feeling confident and independent, and making and deepening social relationships — results that children also overwhelmingly affirmed. Indeed, we found that interest in nature is highly positively associated with experiences in nature, which in turn are positively associated with particular benefits and connection to special places and unforgettable memories. Thus, expenditures on enhancing children’s connections with nature represent an investment no different than expenditures on health care, formal education, and other services that improve quality of life. Our data suggest the return will be substantial and rewarding over time.

Build partnerships

When Americans connect with nature, they bond with their families and friends, develop intellectually, and find respite and rejuvenation. Linking Americans to nature creates lasting memories, provides outlets for children and adults to explore, and facilitates moments of joy. It positively affects the physical, psychological, and social wellbeing of children. It creates places where Americans want to live, work, and flourish. These outcomes provide a powerful justification for forging partnerships across sectors as diverse as healthcare, education, urban planning, conservation, recreation, and community development so that every one might work toward connecting Americans and nature.