Read This Outside – Trust Us, You’ll Feel Better

Getting out into green spaces contributes significantly to overall well-being, according to a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. Researchers from Oregon State, the University of Georgia, and Colorado State University analyzed the results of 4,418 online surveys to empirically demonstrate the relationship between life satisfaction and the different ways one can engage with the environment.

Researchers used the survey data to quantify the relationship between overall well-being and engaging with the environment using 13 different metrics, including sense of place; outdoor activities; governance; social, cultural, and psychological well-being; and resource access.

“Eleven of the 13 had a positive correlation to overall life satisfaction,” said the study’s lead author, Kelly Biedenweg, OSU assistant professor of Human Dimensions of Fisheries and Wildlife. “We wanted 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 many different ways.”

The most significant predictor of life satisfaction? How much respondents trusted governance and how confident they felt about the management of natural spaces.

“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,” Biedenwag said. “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.”

Forests, parks, green spaces, and the outdoor recreation opportunities they provide are some of the things that make living around here so attractive. The intersection of recreational, residential, and resource management interests is a dynamic and complex place.

Biedenweg said, “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.”

If knowing more about management issues surrounding outdoor recreation is something that might contribute to your overall well-being, look no further than OSU College of Forestry’s 2017 Starker Lectures, “Recreation in the Forests: Finding a Healthy Balance.” Videos from this year’s speakers are available free online at http://starkerlectures.forestry.oregonstate.edu/.

By Matthew Hunt

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