Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(3), 913-935; doi:10.3390/ijerph10030913
Review

What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature?

1,* email, 2email, 3email and 1email
Received: 5 December 2012; in revised form: 6 February 2013 / Accepted: 26 February 2013 / Published: 6 March 2013
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Abstract: There is mounting empirical evidence that interacting with nature delivers measurable benefits to people. Reviews of this topic have generally focused on a specific type of benefit, been limited to a single discipline, or covered the benefits delivered from a particular type of interaction. Here we construct novel typologies of the settings, interactions and potential benefits of people-nature experiences, and use these to organise an assessment of the benefits of interacting with nature. We discover that evidence for the benefits of interacting with nature is geographically biased towards high latitudes and Western societies, potentially contributing to a focus on certain types of settings and benefits. Social scientists have been the most active researchers in this field. Contributions from ecologists are few in number, perhaps hindering the identification of key ecological features of the natural environment that deliver human benefits. Although many types of benefits have been studied, benefits to physical health, cognitive performance and psychological well-being have received much more attention than the social or spiritual benefits of interacting with nature, despite the potential for important consequences arising from the latter. The evidence for most benefits is correlational, and although there are several experimental studies, little as yet is known about the mechanisms that are important for delivering these benefits. For example, we do not know which characteristics of natural settings (e.g., biodiversity, level of disturbance, proximity, accessibility) are most important for triggering a beneficial interaction, and how these characteristics vary in importance among cultures, geographic regions and socio-economic groups. These are key directions for future research if we are to design landscapes that promote high quality interactions between people and nature in a rapidly urbanising world.
Keywords: urbanisation; ecosystem services; health benefits
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MDPI and ACS Style

Keniger, L.E.; Gaston, K.J.; Irvine, K.N.; Fuller, R.A. What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature? Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10, 913-935.

AMA Style

Keniger LE, Gaston KJ, Irvine KN, Fuller RA. What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature? International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2013; 10(3):913-935.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Keniger, Lucy E.; Gaston, Kevin J.; Irvine, Katherine N.; Fuller, Richard A. 2013. "What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature?" Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 10, no. 3: 913-935.

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