Very real, unfortunately.
Richard Louv coined the phrase in his 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods” in an effort to explain how our societal disconnect with nature is affecting both adults and especially, children.
Simply put, our children are not spending enough time in nature and this is not only affecting their health and outlook but could also be creating a lack of understanding and empathy of nature itself.
Recent studies focus not so much on what is lost when nature experience fades, but on what is gained through more exposure to natural settings, including nearby nature in urban places. (Children and Nature Network).
In an interview last year with Jill Suttie of Greater Good in Action Louv stated:
“Nature-deficit disorder is not a medical diagnosis, but a useful term—a metaphor—to describe what many of us believe are the human costs of alienation from nature: diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses, a rising rate of myopia, child and adult obesity, Vitamin D deficiency, and other maladies.
Because researchers have turned to this topic relatively recently, most of the evidence is correlative, not causal. But it tends to point in one direction: Experiences in the natural world appear to offer great benefits to psychological and physical health and the ability to learn, for children and adults. The research strongly suggests that time in nature can help many children learn to build confidence in themselves, calm themselves, and focus.
If nature experiences continue to fade from the current generation of young people, and the next, and the ones to follow, where will future stewards of the earth come from?”
In a 2012 BBC News report concern that this malady was growing amongst children in the UK was highlighted.
“Evidence suggests the problem is worse in the UK than other parts of Europe, and may help explain poor UK rankings in childhood satisfaction surveys.”
The Centre for Reconnecting with Nature lists some very interesting facts about NDD.
Some of the leading causes of NDD:
* TV, computers and video games
* Loss of freedom to play outdoors
* Parents’ fear of stranger danger
* Fear and dislike of the natural world; discomfort outdoors
* Disconnection from where food comes from
* Loss of access to nature
* No longer living off the land
* No unstructured playtime outdoors
* Entertainment comes from media, not imagination and outside play
US NDD Statistics & effects
* 88% of children use computers daily
* Youth avg 8 hours daily on electronic media, teens up to 12 hrs – they take cell phones & games to bed with them.
* 9 million youth are overweight, and rising
* 70% of children are Vit D deficient from lack of sunlight
* 50% of preschoolers are never taken outside for play
* Denied access to nature increases anxiety and behavior issues
* Parental fear is the #1 cause of children’s isolation from nature
Benefits of Spending Time in Nature
* Stimulates creativity
* Test scores 50% higher
* Increased imagination, reasoning and observation
* Able to cope with stress
* Higher self esteem
* More adaptable
* Decreased anxiety and improved balance
* Healthy mind/body/spirit
* Increased awareness of surroundings
* Improved social skills
* Increased emotional and intellectual development
* Understanding of nature’s cycles
“We see this disconnect as the root cause of human imbalance, as evidenced by the underlying anxiety and discord prevalent in many children, adults and in modern society as a whole. With the loss of positive and direct interaction with the outdoors comes the loss of knowing who we are as one of Nature’s beings. When we reconnect, we remember that we are completely reliant and dependent on Nature; we are a part of, not apart from it. This fosters a reverence for the beauty and wonder of Nature, and restores respect for life. As caretakers, we live harmoniously within Nature’s systems. This fosters harmony in ourselves and creates balanced nature-human relationships. It also brings back having fun in Nature!”
As Richard Louv states in the introduction to his book: “Last child in the woods”.
“Reducing that deficit—healing the broken bond between our young and nature—is in our self-interest, not only because aesthetics or justice demands it, but also because our mental, physical, and spiritual health depends upon it. The health of the earth is at stake as well. How the young respond to nature, and how they raise their own children, will shape the configurations and conditions of our cities, homes—our daily lives”.