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Nature Time Improves Your Well-Being, Says OSU Study


A person scales a cliff at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon. Smith Rock is a popular destination for rock climbers from all over the Northwest.

A person scales a cliff at Smith Rock State Park in Terrebonne, Oregon. Smith Rock is a popular destination for rock climbers from all over the Northwest.

Bryan M. Vance/OPB

Researchers at Oregon State University have found that people who spend time in nature feel greater life satisfaction.

That’s certainly true for Gig Harbor, Washington, resident Bill Coughlin, who recently spent the day hiking with his kids at Smith Rock State Park near Terrebonne, Oregon.

“It recharges me more than anything,” Coughlin said, gazing up at the giant red rock face. “There’s nothing like getting back into nature. It’s just so peaceful, too. It’s needed. In our busy lives, it’s just so important.”

OSU scientists found that, like Coughlin, people who hike or otherwise spend time in nature have a greater sense of well-being.

Researchers also found the sense of satisfaction is greater when a person feels like parks, trails and other resources are well managed by their government.

“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 can interact with nature,” said Kelly Biedenweg, lead author of the study and researcher at OSU’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

The study looked at 13 metrics to assess the relationship between overall life satisfaction and engaging with the natural environment. They asked people about community activities, access to wild resources, stress eased by time outdoors and trust in policymakers.

“Eleven of the 13 had a positive correlation to overall life satisfaction,” Biedenweg said. “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.”

The study was published  the Journal of Environmental Psychology.

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