Two children overlooking a landscape

Making Space for Young People

How does ecosystem quality affect nature connectedness and health in young people?

Project Team

  • Jamie Sims (Project PI-University of Chichester)
  • Michael Lomas (University of Salford)
  • Jon Hutchinson (Groundwork)
  • Mark Goddard (Northumbria University)
  • Anant Jani (University of Oxford)
  • Danielle Lambrick (University of Southampton)
  • Michael Lomas (University of Salford)
  • Laura MacLean (James Hutton Institute)
  • Liz O’Brien (Forest Research

Project Summary

Physical benefits of spending time in the natural environment include reduced blood pressure, cortisol, and heart rate, as well as decreased incidence of diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Greenspace exposure benefits attentional restoration, perceived social support, management of ADHD symptoms, and mental wellbeing. While specific findings for young people are limited, time in natural spaces in childhood appears important in establishing the potential for future engagement. However, despite potential benefits to activity levels, prosocial behaviour, and wellbeing, young people’s engagement with the natural environment suffers a decline in adolescence. We aim to explore the linkages between objective environmental qualities and perceptions of adolescents in urban greenspaces and whether these contribute to nature connectedness and the physical and mental health of young people. We will conduct a comprehensive field survey, rapid biodiversity assessments, and acoustic monitoring, to identify ecologically high- and low-quality areas. 128 young people involved with Groundwork will engage with specific tasks within identified areas (a conservation task, a mindfulness task, and a photo-voice group discussion task) to promote a varied degree of nature connectedness. A mixed methods design will collect quantitative data using telemetry, accelerometry, and an online survey, and qualitative data using photo-voice and focus groups. Following this proof-of-concept study, it is intended to pursue a further application to scale up to include future Groundwork projects. Findings will feed into the National Lottery Heritage Fund stage 1 application. Dissemination of results will occur through blogs and websites, with key findings prepared for publication in an appropriate academic journal.