A new study suggests that children from less affluent backgrounds are likely to find the COVID-19 lockdown more challenging for them mental health Because they experienced less connection with nature than their wealthy peers.
A study published in the journal ‘People and Nature’ found that children who first increased their connection to nature during the COVID-19 lockdown were more likely to have lower levels of behavioral and emotional problems, compared to those whose relationship to nature remained the same or decreased – regardless of their socio-economic status.
The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Cambridge and the University of Sussex, also found that children from affluent families increased their connection to nature more during the pandemic than their less affluent peers.
Nearly two-thirds of parents reported a change in their child’s relationship with nature during the lockdown, while a third of children whose connection to nature increased, increased well-being problems – either through ‘acting’ from or from increased sadness or anxiety.
The results strengthen the case for nature as a low-cost method of mental health support for children and suggest that more efforts should be made to help children connect with nature – both at home and at school.
The researchers’ suggestions for achieving this include: reducing the number of extra-curricular activities structured for more time for children, provision of gardening projects in schools, and funding for schools, especially in disadvantaged areas, nature- based learning programmes.
The study also provides important guidance regarding possible future restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Samantha Friedman, a researcher at the Center for Family Research at the University of Cambridge, said, “We know that access to and connectedness to nature is associated with wide-ranging benefits in children and adults, including reduced levels of anxiety and depression, and reduced stress.” ” , first author of the study.
She continued: “The COVID-19 lockdown meant that children no longer had their normal school activities, routines and social interactions. Removing these barriers gave us a new context to see how changes in relation to nature are mental. How do they affect health?
“Connecting to nature may have helped buffer some UK children against the effects of the lockdown, but we found that children from less affluent families were less likely to grow their connection to nature during that time.”
An increased connection to nature was reflected in reports of children spending time gardening, playing in the garden or doing physical activities outside. This was usually associated with having more time available for these activities during the lockdown. Conversely, according to the parents, the decreased connection with nature was explained by the inability to reach certain natural places due to travel restrictions at the time.
“Connecting with nature can be an effective way to support children’s well-being, especially as children return to normal routines, such as school and extra-curricular activities,” said Dr Elian Fink, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Sussex, who were involved in it. Study.
She said: “Our findings may be helpful in redesigning the lockdown rules the UK needs to return to these situations in the future, and particularly in countries whose lockdown restrictions prevent children from accessing nature Is.
“Expanding the time children spend accessing nature, or extending the distance that children are allowed to access nature, can have beneficial effects on their mental health.”
The study used an online survey to collect feedback from 376 families with children aged three to seven years in the UK, between April and July 2020. More than half of these families reported that their child’s connection to nature first increased during COVID-19. lockdown. The remaining parents whose children’s connection to nature decreased or remained the same during this period also reported that their children were facing more health problems.
The widely used, gold standard questionnaire was used as a measure of each child’s mental health – assessing emotional problems such as unhappiness, worry, anxiety and depression; and behavioral problems such as anger and hyperactivity.
“Mental health problems can manifest in different ways in different children. We found that a greater connection with nature was associated with a reduction in both emotional and behavioral problems,” Fink said.
She continued: “Indeed, the contrasting experiences of access to nature among different socio-economic groups may be even more drastic than our study because respondents to our online study were drawn largely from more affluent social groups.”
Parents of three- to seven-year-olds responded to the study survey in the context of a particular child. The researchers focused on this age group because they were likely to experience a lot of disruption due to the pandemic, and also did not understand what was happening.
“Our study showed that parents can help children become more connected to nature. This can be a bit daunting for some people, but it doesn’t have to be wild camping and foraging for food. — it can actually be as simple as taking a walk near your house or sitting outside for ten minutes a day,” Friedman said.
This story has been published without modification in text from a wire agency feed.