Student and Nature Interactions and Their Impact on Mental Health during the COVID-19 Pandemic

Jonah E. Trevino, Muntazar Monsur, Carol S. Lindquist, Catherine R. Simpson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Passive and active interactions with nature reduce stress, anxiety, and depression. Populations that experience increased stress often have fewer interactions with nature due to many factors. More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has created a new stressor for all populations due to sickness, isolation, financial burdens, or other factors. University students were particularly impacted due to the change to online modalities, which isolated them from other students. To assess if any negative or other consequences were experienced and if nature factors could mitigate them, we examined how plant interactions affected university students (N = 353) in an online learning environment. Two modified Depression Anxiety Stress Surveys (DASS; Depression Anxiety Stress and Academic Stress, DASA) were administered over two semesters in 2020 to survey students on these interactions with nature. During the two semesters, most students experienced extremely severe self-reported mental health adversities. Further correlations between DASA scores and responses about nature interactions, home environments, plant exposure, and plant access showed that outdoor interactions were positively related to better self-reported mental health scores. However, the concerning and lingering effects of the pandemic were evidenced in our research as DASA scores increased across the two semesters. Nevertheless, going outdoors and interacting with nature brings some benefits that lessen the severity of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5030
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Volume19
Issue number9
DOIs
StatePublished - May 1 2022

Keywords

  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • mental health
  • nature interactions
  • passive impacts
  • plants
  • university students

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