Mechanisms underlying childhood exposure to blue spaces and adult subjective well-being: An 18-country analysis


Contact with natural environments is associated with good health and well-being. Although childhood nature experiences may be important in the development of an individual’s relationship with nature and subsequent well-being, previous studies have tended to focus on ‘nature’ in general, and the mechanisms by which childhood experiences influence well-being in adulthood remain insufficiently studied. Drawing on cross-sectional survey data from an 18-country sample (N = 15,743) the current work extended previous research by examining: a) blue spaces (coasts, rivers, lakes, etc.) in particular; b) associations between adults’ recalled childhood exposure to blue spaces, frequency of recent visits to green and blues spaces, and adult subjective well-being; c) the role of childhood exposure to blue spaces on intrinsic motivations to spend time in nature; and d) the consistency of these relationships across different countries. Tests of a model where childhood exposure to blue spaces was linked to adult subjective well-being serially through intrinsic motivation and then recent blue and green space visits exhibited a good fit, a pattern largely consistent across all 18 countries. However, an alternative model where recent visits predicted intrinsic motivation also demonstrated good fit, indicating that these processes may be iterative. Building familiarity with and confidence in and around blue spaces in childhood may stimulate a joy of, and greater propensity to spend recreational time in, nature in adulthood, with positive consequences for adult subjective well-being.

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Nature Play WA acknowledges the Whadjuk people of the Noongar Nation, as the custodians of the land where our team lives and works. We also acknowledge the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and recognise the continuing connection of Indigenous people to their land, waters, sky, culture and community. We pay our respect to all Indigenous people of this land; ancestors, elders and young ones.