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Let's go outside! Environmental restoration amongst adolescents and the impact of friends and phones

Summary


Being with a friend in a natural setting enhances the restorative experience of teenagers

The purpose of this experimental study was to find out whether teenagers experience the same psychological benefits in nature as children and adults have been shown to do. This study also examined whether and how restoration indoors and outdoors might be affected by three different conditions: being alone, being with a friend, and playing a game on a mobile phone.

After completing a series of stressor tasks, 120 adolescents (age 16-18) were randomly assigned to an “indoor” environment with no view of nature or an “outdoor” environment with natural elements. The random assignment extended to one of three contexts within the participant’s indoor or outdoor assigned environment: “alone,” “with a friend,” or “with a mobile phone.” This arrangement resulted in 20 participants in each of the six different settings. The stressor tasks completed by the participants prior to their time in one of the six conditions were designed to exert maximum mental fatigue within a short space of time.

Measures of restoration (including physiological, cognitive and affective states) were taken immediately following the stressor tasks and again after the 20 minutes spent in one of the six conditions. Heart rate and blood pressure readings were also taken prior to the stressor tasks, after the stressor tasks, and again after the 20 minutes in the indoor or outdoor environment.

Findings showed improvement in concentration across all experimental conditions outside more so than in the indoor environment; positive affect improved only after being with a friend in an outdoor environment. According to the researchers, these findings suggest that spending short school breaks in a natural environment with a friend can have a significant positive impact on the psychological wellbeing of teenagers.

Citation

Greenwood, A., Gatersleben, B., (2016). Let's go outside! Environmental restoration amongst adolescents and the impact of friends and phones. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 48, 131-139.

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