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Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume 2015, Article ID 651827, 13 pages
Research Article

Addressing “Nature-Deficit Disorder”: A Mixed Methods Pilot Study of Young Adults Attending a Wilderness Camp

1Department of Family Medicine, University of Michigan Medical School, 1018 Fuller Street, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, USA
2European Centre for Environment and Human Health, University of Exeter, Truro TR1 3HD, UK
3Department of Pediatrics, University of Michigan Medical School, 1500 E. Medical Center Drive, Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA
4School of Medicine, St. George’s University, University Centre, West Indies, Grenada
5Institute of Energy and Sustainable Development, De Montfort University, Leicester LE1 9BH, UK
6School of Arts & Media, University of Salford, Salford M6 3EQ, UK
7Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Research Group, James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen AB15 8QH, UK

Received 31 July 2015; Revised 10 November 2015; Accepted 11 November 2015

Academic Editor: Alan Logan

Copyright © 2015 Sara L. Warber et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background and Objectives. Rapid urbanization raises concern about chronic human health issues along with less frequent interaction with the natural world. “Nature-deficit disorder,” a nonclinical term, describes this potential impact on the well-being of youth. We conducted a mixed methods pilot study of young adults attending a four-week wilderness camp to investigate whether nature-based camp experiences would increase connection to nature and promote multiple dimensions of well-being. Methods. Participants completed precamp (n = 46) and postcamp (n = 36) online questionnaires including nature-related and holistic well-being measures. Differences were investigated using paired t-tests. Interviews (n = 16) explored camp experiences and social relations. Results. All nature-related measures—exposure, knowledge, skills, willingness to lead, perceived safety, sense of place, and nature connection—significantly increased. Well-being outcomes also significantly improved, including perceived stress, relaxation, positive and negative emotions, sense of wholeness, and transcendence. Physical activity and psychological measures showed no change. Interviews described how the wilderness environment facilitated social connections. Conclusion. Findings illustrate the change in nature relations and well-being that wilderness camp experiences can provide. Results can guide future research agendas and suggest that nature immersion experiences could address the risk of “nature-deficit disorder,” improve health, and prepare future environmental leaders.