Nature Deficit Disorder
Children are meant to be in nature…it’s where they thrive.
Unfortunately, modern children are experiencing a profound level of disconnect from natural environments.
The ill effects on their body, mind, and spirit are just now beginning to be understood.
Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD) is a term coined by author Richard Louv, in his seminal book, Last Child in the Woods(2008). In clinical practice, it is less of a disorder and more of a means by which to describe the ill effects of the absence of nature on children’s health and well-being
Humans have evolved in the presence of nature for over 10,000 years. At both a macro- and micro-level, the human body experiences therapeutic benefits when immersed in nature. Since the 1980’s Japanese scholars have described this phenomenon as Shinrin-yoku, or “forest-bathing”, and modern academics and researchers have begun to quantify the health benefits of time spent outdoors.
Recent research shows that spending a significant amount of time in nature leads to:
- Increased immunity
- Reduced stress & increased resiliency
- Improved mood & sense of happiness
- Increased ability to focus
- Better sleep
- Increased energy levels
In essence, humans thrive when they spend ample time in nature.
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Children’s Health and Nature Withdrawal
Unfortunately, many children in developed countries are spending less & less time in nature. For example, Justeret al . found that children today spend less than half the amount of time in nature as they did 20 years ago. And simultaneously, the Kaiser Family Foundation reported that American children aged 8 to 18 years spend on average 53 hours a week using entertainment media! This drastic decline in time spent in natural environments has coincided with a significant surge in chronic illness in children.
Nature Deficit Disorder describes the ways in which children are being negatively impacted by nature withdrawal.
Although multi-faceted, researchers have correlated numerous health challenges with reduced time in nature, including:
- Attention disorders & neurodevelopment delays
- Mood disorders, such as anxiety and depression
- Childhood obesity
- Myopia (near-sightedness)
- Sensory processing issues
- Emotional dysregulation, fearfulness & lack of compassion
- Gastrointestinal dysbiosis
- Chronic low immunity or hypersensitivity
- Poor sleep patterns
In short, removing children from nature has a deleterious impact on their health and well-being, and can set the stage for chronic illness throughout their entire life span.
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