Research Summary

Seeing community for the trees: The links among contact with natural environments, community cohesion, and crime

Contact with natural environments may promote community cohesion and reduce crime

Bioscience
2015

This study examined the links between daily contact with nature around one’s home and community and social -- versus personal – outcomes, with a specific focus on community cohesion and local crime. Both objective (actual geographic data) and subjective (self-reported) measures were used to assess contact with nature, which included (1) exposure (through viewing nature) and (2) engagement with nature (through visiting natural areas).

An online survey was administered to a large nationally representative sample (N = 2079) ranging in age from 22 to 65 years in Great Britain. Information collected through the survey included community predictors (such as population density and unemployment rate), socioeconomic and other demographic standing, subjective contact with greenspace (nature), perceived community cohesion, and individual experiences of well-being.

Results of the survey indicated that views of nature from the home, the quality of nature, and the amount of time spent in nature were linked to how individuals perceived their community as close and cohesive. The socioeconomic standing of individuals and of their communities did not alter these findings, and the results applied to individuals living in both urban and rural communities.

Findings also indicated that the perception of cohesive communities enhanced individual well-being outcomes, higher workplace productivity, and environmentally-responsible behaviors. Additionally, "local nature was linked to lower crime both directly and indirectly through its effects on community cohesion." As access to nature increased, the amount of crime decreased. This research suggests that community planners would do well to consider greenspace provision as a potential option for reducing crime in communities.

Overall, the results of this study support the idea that contact with nature and the quality of that contact can improve the social connections and the well-being of individuals. These findings also support and expand on previous research showing links between nature and more generalized tendencies for positive social behaviors.