Nature-deficit disorder

31 Jan
Cover of "Last Child in the Woods: Saving...

Cover via Amazon

Many of us may not be able to explain exactly the importance of nature. In fact, few can put this relationship into words. Yet nature plays a significant role in our lives. It restores the mental balance and eliminates stress by instilling both a sense of awe and individual insignificance in the face of things.

Since 2005, the affliction of separation from nature has been coined ‘nature-deficit disorder’. First documented by Richard Louv in his 2005 book ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-deficit Disorder‘ the term refers to any number of disorders that can be traced back to a lack of nature.


The disorder is especially noticeable with children. Todays ‘cotton wool culture’ is intent on keeping children indoors to protect them from harm. Sure, this is understandeable to some extent. There certainly are dangers out there, namely the exponential increase in traffic. But nature-deficit disorder argues that keeping children away from nature is also damaging.


It’s in the wild that we learn a whole bunch of life lessons. We learn teamwork, problem-solving and generally a sense of wholeness that allows us to deal with situations as they arise. Nature is the classroom of life; studies show that outdoor learning is more effective than indoor lessons.


There is not doubt that nature impacts us positively, and equally little doubt that city dwellers suffer from deficit disorders. Is this disorder worse for those of us who have shifted to cities after a childhood in natural surroundings? Or is it worse still for those raised in urban areas who do not realise a disorder may exist? Perhaps as we become increasingly urban through the generations, the issue will subside. Perhaps not.


Maybe this is something we can only know on a personal level. What do you think?



3 Responses to “Nature-deficit disorder”

  1. Neil Smith (Andrew's brother) January 31, 2013 at 13:23 #

    In Japan, the lack of outdoor play spaces (kindergarten and school grounds and most local parks are hard-packed dirt, not grass) has led to a lack of proper arch formation and the big and little toes not being properly formed, which causes poor physical and psychological balance. One result is serious disruption of classes at school and other mental issues.

    • acaciasmith February 4, 2013 at 14:38 #

      Thanks Neil. This really is a very physical side-effect of the lack of nature, I’m sure one that we never would have considered before it became apparent. A very interesting example of our tendency to charge ahead before investigating the potential impacts.


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