January 7, 2010 / 1:21 PM / 9 years ago

Are younger Britons suffering "nature starvation?"

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Young people in Britain are increasingly missing out on the stress-relieving benefits of spending time with nature, Europe’s largest wildlife conservation charity said on Thursday.

A woman walks across the new Rhizotron and Xstrata Treetop walkway, with a view of the Temperate House behind, at Kew Gardens in London May 22, 2008. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said it uncovered a worrying trend of “nature starvation” among young Britons when it conducted a study to find out just how important it is for people to connect with the natural world.

The survey of 1,000 people found that only about a third (37 percent) of under 35s feel connected to the natural world, compared with more than half (55 percent) of those aged over 35.

People who grow up with regular access to the natural world often find it therapeutic, feel better mentally and physically and continue enjoying visits to places like nature reserves, parks and forests throughout their lives, the RSPB said.

Such people would also try to introduce family members to these trips too.

“These results are worrying,” RSPB President Kate Humble and nature television presenter said in a statement.

“If a child hasn’t ever got their hands dirty sifting though soil for bugs, kicked up leaves or been wowed by a cute baby bird, how can we expect them to care about the natural world?”

More than three quarters (76 percent) of respondents said that being out in nature was a great stress-reducer and more than half (51 percent) needed time in nature to be happy.

“There is simply no substitute for getting outdoors and experiencing nature first hand,” Humble said. “If we don’t make sure our young people enjoy nature, we’re taking away something that will help keep them happy and healthy.”

The RSPB said it provides out-of-classroom learning for more than 60,000 children, has more than a million members and more than 170,000 junior members called “Wildlife Explorers.”

Reporting by Paul Casciato, Editing by Steve Addison

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