Since the industrial revolution, the development of a lifestyle lived predominantly indoors has resulted in less contact with the natural world. In the USA this equates to less than five minutes of free-time spent outdoors. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS, 2006) found comparable results for Australia with less than 19 minutes spent outdoors each day. Most free time is spent indoors with the major recreational activity being audio-visual media (ABS, 2006).
Explanations for this startling trend include the fact that as humanity has become more educated, work has become more indoor-oriented and living more sub-urban. As a result humanity has become more human centric, also termed anthropocentric, in focus. Hidden within these statistics is the fact that many people report that they spend little to no time out-of-doors and that women spend less time outside than men.
Research focusing on young people has indicated that young people are even more disconnected from the natural world (Rydberg, 2007). Leading some writers to call this disconnection a crisis termed “Nature Deficit Disorder.” Young people spend more time indoors connected to electronic outlets than they do out-of-doors. This trend of decreased time outdoors is continuing. Between 1997 and 2003 the proportion of 9-12 year olds who spent time playing outside declined by 50 percent.
The role of the Natural world in Wellness
The Western philosophical discipline has long recognised the positive relationship between perceptions of wellness and feelings of connection to the Natural World. Over the last twenty years researchers have gradually been identifying the human health benefits attributed to re-connecting with the natural environment. The significance of feeling connected to natural environments, families and friends are described as a foundational requirement for human health and wellbeing. Leading some researchers to recognise that environmental wellness should be considered an essential element of wellness research. In essence then the more a person feels disconnected from the natural world the less likely s/he will be functionally well.
Also, findings indicate that the experience of disconnection from the natural world means that a person is less likely to be committed to positively interact with and protect the natural world. Hence, environmental loss and unsustainable carbon fuel energy consumption.