For City-Dwellers, Nature Combats Loneliness

Medscape Staff

December 22, 2021

Using real-time data evaluating the relationship between feelings of isolation and proximity to nature, a study unveils a link that can help plan for better cities.

What to know:

  • In addition to the many established benefits of nature for people living in cities, a new study showed that access to natural spaces helps to lessen feelings of loneliness.

  • The Urban Mind research app was used to collect data from people living in cities around the world. More than 750 participants answered questions three times a day for 2 weeks, such as whether they felt welcome among the people around them or if they could see trees at the time of answering the questions.

  • The study, published in Scientific Reports, found that feelings of overcrowding increased loneliness by an average of 39%, but being able to see or hear nature ― like trees or birds ― led to a decrease in feelings of loneliness by about 28%. Contact with nature also boosted the positive effects of feelings of social inclusion.

  • Researchers suggested that feelings of attachment to particular natural sites within cities may further reduce loneliness, as well as provide more opportunities to socialize, though not evaluated by the study.

  • A landscape architect, Johanna Gibbons, and an artist, Michael Smythe, were part of the research team. According to Smythe, who works on social and urban projects, data from projects like this one help communicate the value of natural spaces to public health.

This is a summary of the article, "Contact With Nature in Cities Reduces Loneliness, Study Shows," published by The Guardian on December 20. The full article can be found on theguardian.com.

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