Seeing Community for the Trees
Local nature was linked to lower crime both directly and indirectly through its effects on community cohesion.
Weinstein, Netta et al. (2015). Seeing Community for the Trees: The Links among Contact with Natural Environments, Community Cohesion, and Crime. BioScience. 65(12):1141-1153. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv151
Although the consequences for people's personal well-being outcomes are becoming well documented, there is almost no research examining the social correlates of contact with nature. This article used a large nationally representative sample to link objective (percent greenspace) and subjective measurements of contact with nature, community cohesion, and local crime incidence.
First, the current findings, using a quantitative approach on a nationally representative sample, support the view that the quality of contact with nature can improve the social connections and the well-being of individuals. Subjective experiences of the views of nature from the home, the quality of nature, and the amount of time spent in nature were linked to perceiving one's community as close and cohesive. Moreover, these effects were in place even when taking into account the socioeconomic standing of individuals and, separately, of their communities.
Second, they indicate that increases in well-being due to contact with nature may be in part because individuals who can contact local nature perceive more cohesive communities. These results support the idea of the broad positive effects of nature being due, at least in part, to enhancing connections with the community. This suggests that the biophilia hypothesis’ claim that we are intrinsically drawn and connected to natural environments and self-determination theory's explanation of the relatedness need and its positive effects together provide a theoretical underpinning from which to draw a greater understanding of the positive effects of nature on social interactions.