Nature Deficit Disorder: Causes, Effects, and Prospects

The forests, wetlands, and wildlife are vanishing very fast due to anthropogenic activities.

ByDebananda S Ningthoujam

Updated 25 Feb 2023, 8:52 pm

Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)
Representational Image (Photo: Pixabay)

We live in a digitally connected world. Internet and digital tools such as smartphones, tablets, and laptops have invaded our lives especially that of children. As we get more and more engrossed in virtual worlds, we become more and more disconnected from nature (forests, wetlands, wildlife and domestic pets).

Kids no more observe wildlife or play with pets but instead spend long hours with phones, iPads, and laptops. Adults too hardly walk barefoot in the forests. The concrete jungle, its “atomised” individuals, the buildings, malls, and hotels are all that’s there in our lives. The lush forests, the relaxing riverbanks, the soothing sea beaches, an invigorating swim in crystal-clear river, the call of the nocturnal crickets, springtime birds, and the brisk movements of the squirrels no more look real to us. More seriously, the forests, wetlands, and wildlife are vanishing very fast due to anthropogenic activities.

This disconnect is leading to emergence of a phenomenon called “Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)”.

In today’s column, let’s ponder on the causes, effects, and prospects of Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD).

What is Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD)?

NDD refers to the negative effects that lack of exposure to nature have on the physical and mental health of people especially children. The term was first coined by Richard Louv in his 2005 book “Last Child in the Woods.” It is the idea that human beings, especially children, are spending less time outdoors than they have in the past, resulting in a wide range of behavioral issues.

It's not a recognised medical condition such as ADHD, OCD, autism, and dyslexia etc.

Causes of NDD

Although there are myriad causes of NDD, the major ones are:

Parental fear: parents are keeping children indoors to keep them safe from danger;

Lack of access to natural areas: many parks and nature preserves have restricted access; and

Habitat loss or habitat fragmentation: many wooded areas, parks, and forests are lost to human greed, corporate and developmental activities.

Effects/Symptoms of NDD


As children spend more time indoors, addicted to their hand-held devices, they are at risk for several behavioral disorders. As they are increasingly deprived of the soothing and stimulating effects of nature, they may develop the following symptoms:


Directed attention fatigue;

Place blindness: lack of attention in what’s happening around them;

Sensory anesthesia;

Destructive tendencies;

Attention deficit hyperactivity;


Obesity; and

Species loneliness: lack of bonding with the wildlands and wildlife (also a cause for species extinction) etc.

Benefits of Exposure to Nature

There are several benefits of exposure to nature on child’s development including:

- Positive effects on overall child’s development: E O Wilson, famed Harvard naturalist, coined the term “biophilia” indicating that humans are instinctively drawn towards their surroundings including natural places and wildlife.


- Enhancement of attention span of children through exposure to nature.

- De-stressing through nature: exposure to nature help children destress and become resilient over time.

Inspiration through nature: exposure to nature and outdoor activities instill joy, mirth, and happiness-it’s said that kinesthetic movements in natural surroundings release happy hormones called endorphins.

Socialization through nature: by engaging with natural surroundings, children develop more empathetic relationships with their peers, relatives, and teachers.

Ways to Cure NDD

Here are some ways to “cure” nature deficit disorder.

1.   Take occasional camping trips: camping out in the wild is the best option to experience nature in all its glory and beauty.

2.   Plan outdoor activities: spending time in the neighborhood park, or a hike to the nearest mountain or a trip to the closest river or lake could enable children to play in the soothing lap of mother nature.

3.   Grow a home or a backyard garden: letting children’s hands get dirty, allowing them to play in the mud, enabling them to get connected to natural things growing would instill a love of nature in them.

4.   Keep a dog: letting your child to adopt a pet such as a dog would be one way of tearing her away from man-made gadgets and immersing her in the invigorating world of nature.

There are various other ways to counteract the adverse impacts of NDD: nature meditation, visiting a spot all year round, walking barefoot on the earth, observing life and living things in your surroundings, and offering gratitude for nature’s gifts.



First published:


naturemental healthtechnologymeditationnature deficit disorderphone addiction

Debananda S Ningthoujam

Debananda S Ningthoujam

The author teaches and studies microbial biochemistry and biotechnology at Manipur University


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