Nature can have an important role in university students’ well-being

A research article has been published

A research article written by Riikka Puhakka has been published in Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. The study is based on the increasing recognition that interacting with nature promotes well-being and health for both adults and children. Less is known about the role of nature in people's everyday lives during emerging adulthood which means the shift from adolescence to young adulthood. The study examined university students' participation in outdoor recreation and the perceived well-being effects of nature. The qualitative data consisted of thematic writings (N = 47) produced by environmental students at the University of Helsinki, Finland, in 2020.

The findings showed that most students have negotiated time and other constraints and maintained active participation in outdoor recreation. The findings highlighted that nature can have an important role in students' well-being during a life stage loaded with stress factors, and especially in times of the COVID-19 pandemic. Nature provides opportunities not only for physical activity but also for emotional and cognitive renewal, strengthening social relationships, and relieving the negative physiological effects of various stressors. Nature helps students in reflecting on their lives and even gaining a stronger sense of self. Natural settings provide a venue for students' socially shared experiences but also support retreat behaviors by enabling ‘being away’ and providing freedom from the pressures of student life.

To prevent decline in connection with nature, special efforts should be made to support young adults' interaction with nature and gaining well-being benefits. Encouraging outdoor recreation at all life stages is needed to foster a lifelong nature connection and well-being experiences.

Journal of Outdoor Recreation and Tourism: University students’ participation in outdoor recreation and the perceived well-being effects of nature