Students Staff

16 October 2013

Just one in five UK children are ‘connected to nature’

Colchester Campus

Child enjoying the great outdoors

Enjoying the great outdoors. Picture: David Tipling

Only one in five UK children are “connected to nature”, according to a major project by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) involving academics from Essex.

The three-year research project – the first of its kind to robustly measure how connected UK children are to nature – found that just 21 per cent of children have a level of connection to nature. The report’s findings will be released at an event at the Houses of Parliament tonight.

The University, which has a global reputation for its green exercise research, was involved in the study by establishing the best way to accurately measure connection to nature in children.

“There is anecdotal evidence about children being disconnected from nature, but the key factor in this study is that it is the first time we have been able to accurately measure just how connected to nature children actually are,” explained Rachel Bragg, Senior Researcher of the Green Exercise Research Team at the University.

The report comes as a result of growing concerns over generations of children with little or no contact with the natural world and wildlife, which the RSPB believes is one of the biggest threats to UK nature.

The new study, which involved questioning more than 1,000 UK 8-12-year-olds, shows there are statistically significant differences between children’s connection to nature at a national level across the UK and between urban and rural areas as well as between boys and girls.

The RSPB believes that ensuring young people are connected to nature will mean they develop deeply-held feelings and attitudes towards wildlife and the world we all live in, and as a result will care enough to help save it in the future.

Dr Mike Clarke, RSPB Chief Executive, said: “This report is ground-breaking stuff. Millions of people are increasingly worried that today's children have less contact with nature than ever before, but until now there has been no robust scientific attempt to measure and track connection to nature among children in the UK, which means the problem hasn’t been given the attention it deserves.

“Nature is in trouble, and children’s connection to nature is closely linked to this. The recent State of Nature report shows that nature in the UK is being lost at a dramatic rate. We can all take action to put nature back into childhood, to ensure young people have better lives and a better future.

“For the first time, we have created a baseline that we and others can use to measure just how connected to nature the UK’s children really are. By adopting this new approach, we can all monitor children’s connection and we are recommending that governments and local authorities take action to increase it through policy and practice decisions.”

The University is continuing the work with the RSPB, looking further at connection to nature in the UK.


Note to editors:

To interview Rachel Bragg please contact the University of Essex Communications Office on 01206 872400 or e-mail:

For further information about the report, please contact Gemma Hogg, RSPB media officer on 01767 693582/07738881359 or e-mail:

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