Nature deficit disorder

March 30, 2012

The BBC News website has an interesting article on something called “nature deficit disorder.” The author claims that the term was   

coined in 2005 by author Richard Louv, who argued that the human cost of “alienation from nature” was measured in “diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses”.

The author also asserts that:

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.

That children in the UK and many other advanced industrialized countries are having increasingly less contact with nature is beyond doubt. That this lacuna is the source of their dissatisfaction with life is a hypothesis, but an interesting one that is well worth exploring. It may also help to explain why South Korean kids are so unhappy. Indeed, as this article in the Korea Times points out, in each of the past three years, Korean students have reported the lowest levels of life satisfaction among students of all 23 OECD member countries.

It is widely assumed that the main causes of the high levels of life dissatisfaction among young people in South Korea are the education system and the social pressure that is put on students to study and to perform well on objective-style educational tests, tests that measure little more than students’ ability to memorize largely meaningless material. Another possible causal factor, completely overlooked by most commentators, is the nature deficit disorder. South Korea, especially in the densely populated Seoul area where most students reside, is vast urban sprawl, which provides very few opportunities for young people to connect with nature. 

Unfortunately, even if the nature deficit disorder were a causal factor in life dissatisfaction, there is little that Koreans would be able to do about it. South Korea, especially in the Seoul area where most students live, has an extremely high population density that makes connecting with nature virtually impossible–or possible only in virtual reality. Indeed, for most South Korean kids any connection they have with nature is likely to be mediated by their cell phone.


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