Connection With Nature Lowers Crime, Stress
By Michael Cole
Scientists have understood for some time that contact with nature is important for human well-being; among other things, it reduces stress. Yet civilization is trending toward higher urbanization and the shrinking of green spaces continues. The social consequences of this decline in the experience of natural settings for the average urban dweller is something that isnâ€™t so well understood.
A study conducted by a team of interdisciplinary researchers from the United Kingdom investigated the reactions of people, based on objective measurements and self-reports, in the context of contact with nature, community cohesion, and local crime incidence.
The study was designed around a whole range of intersecting factors such as socioeconomic deprivation, population density, unemployment rate, socioeconomic standing, and weekly wages. Results showed that participants who experienced local nature had more positive responses to the idea of community cohesion.
Green is Good
The relationship between the availability of local green spaces and crime rate was also explored. It was determined that having access to natural setting or farmland accounted for a reduction in crime rate of 4 percent. Researchers concluded that local natural settings have a positive effective on human communities. Neighbors who are able to experience nature on a regular basis are more likely to show mutual support of each other, which discourages crime. This is true for even lower socioeconomic communities where crime rates are typically higher. These findings suggest that social policies seeking to reduce crime rates would do well to create improved access to local natural settings for members of the community.
Ecosystem services, such as access to natural springs as a water source or natural foods from local plants, are much easier to quantify as a factor having impact on communities than the broader category of â€œcontact with nature.â€ Yet, the data correlates with lower crime rates and thus demands further study if social benefits from natural contact are to be taken advantage of in the future.
Urban settings are thought to have higher crime rates because they provide a locus for activities that are purely commercial, thus supplying what crime demands: merchandise and currency. Rural and natural settings have lower crime rates simply because they have lower populations. However, this doesnâ€™t account for the slight decrease in crime for urban areas with access to green spaces. The elusive â€œcontact with natureâ€ factor may help to reduce crime by providing an outlet for humanity's more primal instincts that are expressed as aggression and crime when restricted to a cramped urban environment.
Access to such contact with nature may also fulfill another goal: reduce stress that comes with living in the urban setting.
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