Elizabeth Valverde
Visual Curator
Xueyun Chen
English Translation
Charlotte Garcia
Italian Translation
Bryan Bravo

Have you ever wondered how living away from nature affects us and what nature deficit disorder is?

Richard Louv coined the term in his book Last Child in the Woods (2005) to explain this situation. He points out that this term is not meant to be a medical term but rather an explanation for the symptoms facing today’s society; it refers to consequences that stem from the lack of connection with nature, a problem which is becoming increasingly significant.

The lack of an expression to describe a known fact led to the emergence of this term. Various studies had already noted this relationship between behavior and nature. Similarly, parents, teachers, and even the children themselves observed this connection but didn’t know how to categorize it or talk about it.

Unlike previous centuries, today’s society lacks contact with nature. The routines and rhythms of city life limit the moments to enjoy the outdoors. Life in the city never stops, and this forces us to forgo time to feel.

In addition to this, technology, made to facilitate closeness and communication, ironically, is distancing us. Each one immersed in their own world, spending hours in front of screens, confined within four walls, with artificial lights, artificial plants, virtual realities.

We have created spaces where children spend more time looking at screens, and when that happens, what you’re doing is shutting down their senses.”

Richard Louv
Niña sosteniendo un teléfono inteligente de Chatchawarn Loetsupan.jpeg
Image by Charchawarn Loersupan – Girl holding a smartphone.

It is even more worrying when children are the ones who face this new reality, and who will then face even more concerning consequences than what we as adults face today. Because if we, who grew up with less technology at hand (though now absorbed in touch screens), are already experiencing the results of our lack of interaction with nature, imagine the implications for those who have practically been born with electronic devices in hand.

Perhaps this disorder is one of the most prevalent in people in the 21st century, and it will continue to intensify, whether we want to acknowledge it or not. The effects that nature has on us directly impact our overall well-being.

Many associated symptoms accompany this deficit. However, it’s important to note that, since the medical community does not recognize it as a disorder per se, they have not systematized its symptomatology.

Multiple professionals from various fields of study (psychologists, philosophers, pediatricians, educators) still agree that a lack of contact with nature causes certain effects.These are the ‘symptoms’: the characteristic manifestations of this disorder.

What symptoms are we talking about?

Some of the symptoms associated with this deficit and directly related to mood and mental health include anxiety, stress, or emotional fatigue. This can also encompass attention deficit disorder (ADD).

Similarly, there are those related to physical health such as obesity, respiratory diseases, and lack of vitamin D.

On the contrary, greater exposure to nature would help regulate blood pressure, prevent diabetes, and improve the immune system.

We live stressed, hurried, and rushed, and all of this has direct consequences on our physical and mental health. That’s where nature helps to heal. Have you ever wondered why a swim in the sea feels so pleasant? Why a walk in the forest can clear your mind? Or why watching the sunset can be so gratifying?

Well, we were made to be in contact with nature; we are part of it. That innate, close bond is now overshadowed by our lifestyle. But even those brief moments we experience outdoors can bring great benefits to our well-being. Not only does it favor our health, but it also makes us more productive and creative.

Salpicadura de agua de Noelle Otto
Image by Noello Otto – Water splash

If you read our article about the importance of nature in early childhood education, you would know the benefits it has on our development: from improved mood to better academic performance, enhanced social and emotional behavior, among others. Thus, fostering children’s connection to nature is crucial. But as adults, it is also essential to build this connection to create healthier communities.

How do we achieve this?

There are many ways to do it, but they are not always easy. It requires changes in how we perceive life and how we design our routines.

We must create greater access to natural areas, promote interaction with nature, rethink urban spaces to include nature in the city. Facilitate access to green areas for the most disadvantaged people in the poorest areas of the city, who often lack these spaces in their neighborhoods.

Environmental, visual, and noise pollution surround our cities, causing problems that are tied to the environments we live in. As Louv indicates, the closer we are to green spaces, the greater our ability to cope with adverse situations, in addition to the therapeutic effects that such areas have on us and the improvement of our sleep.

We must strive to reconnect with nature, to explore, to experience. And, in a world so immersed in technology, we must learn to restrict it, to balance its use and counterbalance it with outdoor activities.

We need to learn to pause, to observe, to listen, and soon we will start to feel better and improve as a society.