Skip to content

Nature-Deficit Disorder in Adults

July 4, 2011

In a recent article for Outside magazine, Richard Louv, the author of Last Child in the Woods and more recently The Nature Principle, argues that adults as well as children are suffering from lack of exposure to the outdoor world. Louv was the one who first introduced the term “nature-deficit disorder,” and, referring to Last Child in the Woods, in this article writes:

“In the book, I introduced the term nature-deficit disorder—not as a medical diagnosis but as a way to describe the growing gap between children and nature. By its broadest interpretation, nature-deficit disorder is an atrophied awareness, a diminished ability to find meaning in the life that surrounds us. When we think of the nature deficit, we usually think of kids spending too much time indoors plugged into an outlet or computer screen. But after the book’s publication, I heard adults speak with heartfelt emotion, even anger, about their own sense of loss.”

Exposure to nature has a myriad of benefits, both to individuals and to the world at large. After all, if you don’t love nature, why would you work to protect it? And can you grow to love something that you don’t know? Numerous studies have also demonstrated the benefit that even just viewing the living world can have on a person; one of my favorite examples demonstrated that surgical patients who had a view of a tree from their hospital room had shorter recoveries (and so left the hospital more quickly) and needed fewer pain medications than patients who did not have such a view.

Louv makes the case that, in an increasingly urbanized world, “the traditional ways that humans have experienced nature are vanishing along with biodiversity,” and gives some interesting examples of how we’ve lost touch with even our basic senses. For example, he reports on a study that describes how and why we can follow scent trails (in this case, chocolate!) with two nostrils better than one. I bet most of us don’t spend much time pondering our relationship with our sense of smell these days, but it is something that connects us directly to the rest of the non-human world around us.

One last  tidbit — but there are a lot more, and I highly recommend the full article, which, again, can be found here. It turns out that nature might make us smarter (as well as help us recover more quickly from, for example, mental fatigue and emotional trauma): “A study conducted by Dorothy Matthews and Susan Jenks at the Sage Colleges in Troy, New York, found that a common soil bacterium given to mice helped them navigate a maze twice as fast. The natural bacterium in question,Mycobacterium vaccae, is usually ingested or inhaled when people spend time in nature. The effect wore off in a few weeks, but, Matthews said, the research suggests that the M. vaccae we come in contact with all the time in nature may “play a role” in learning in mammals.”

Pretty cool,  huh?


2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 13, 2014 7:34 am

    I wanted to thank you for this good read!! I certainly
    loved every little bit of it. I have you bookmarked to look at new things you post…


  1. Teaching Conservation Biology Online « Our Urban Jungle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: