New UK Study Finds More Human Benefits from Nature

McClaughrey Spings Woods in the southwest Palos region.

A new study by researchers from King’s College London shows contact with nature in cities significantly reduces feelings of loneliness.

According to the study, loneliness can raise a person’s risk of death by 45% – more than air pollution, obesity or alcohol abuse.

The Guardian newspaper reports, “The study is the first to assess how the environment can affect loneliness. It used real-time data, collected via a smartphone app, rather than relying on people’s memory of how they were feeling.

“The research found that feelings of overcrowding increased loneliness by an average of 39%. But when people were able to see trees or the sky, or hear birds, feelings of loneliness fell by 28%. Feelings of social inclusion also cut loneliness by 21%, and when these feelings coincided with contact with nature the beneficial effect was boosted by a further 18%.” The new study adds to hundreds of studies that show that being in nature improves physical health and mental wellbeing. One shows that as little as 120 minutes a week can have a deeply positive impact.

The research also underpins Friends’ vision of the Chicago River system as blue-green corridor of connected natural open space available to people and wildlife.

To help people deepen their relationship with nature and increase awareness of our natural areas, Friends launched our Inside, Out & About initiative in 2021 to take people on a journey along the Chicago and Calumet River system; promoting the use of natural areas, encouraging stewardship, and helping people understand that being outside in nature is good for physical and emotional health.