Outdoor adventures and adolescents’ mental health

Outdoor adventures and adolescents’ mental health: Daily screen time as a moderator of changes


Outdoor adventures may compensate for some negative mental health conditions associated with exaggerated screen time in adolescents

This study investigated whether outdoor adventure programs may produce different effects for adolescents with high versus low levels of daily screen time (ST). The study also investigated the possibility of excessive media consumers profiting the most from outdoor adventure programs. Previous research provides evidence of excessive ST having detrimental effects on psycho-social health and outdoor adventure programs having positive effects on psycho-social health. Building on that research, this study aimed to determine if outdoor adventure programs may be effective in countering negative mental health impacts of ST.

Seventy-six adolescents (age 13-20) completed questionnaires before and after participating in a 10-day outdoor adventure program during which time they were without access to the internet and television and had no service for mobile phones. All of the camp activities – which included canoeing, rappelling, rock climbing and hiking – took place in natural surroundings and were designed to promote personal development and team building. The questionnaire included an assessment of perceived stress and subjective well-being. The questionnaire also collected information about the participants’ daily leisure screen time. Researchers used the questionnaire responses to categorize participants into two groups: high media consumers (more than three hours of ST per day) and low-to-moderate consumers (3 or fewer hours of ST per day).

glenhaven park campsite

Pre-post assessment results showed significant positive changes in the mental health scores of both groups of media consumers. Excessive media consumers, however, showed greater gains than low-to-moderate consumers. These results applied across the different types of mental health measures (i.e., stress perceptions and indicators of well-being). While the excessive media consumers showed greater gains in mental health and well-being, they also entered the program with lower levels of mental health indicators.

These findings provide a strong argument for a wider use of outdoor adventure programs for health promotion, especially for adolescents who tend to spend a great deal of time involved with media consumption.  Providing time away from their “normal” (mediatized) lifestyle may compensate for the negative health impacts of leisure ST. Another potential impact relates to the possibility of participants making changes in their mediatized and sedentary lifestyles at home. This study adds to the existing literature by being the first to address different effects of outdoor adventure programs according to daily levels of ST.


Mutz, M., Müller, J., Göring, A., (2019). Outdoor adventures and adolescents’ mental health: Daily screen time as a moderator of changes. Journal of Adventure Education and Outdoor Learning, 19(1), 56-66.

Glenhaven Park June 2018

Effects of childhood setting and interaction with nature

Effects of childhood setting and interaction with nature on academic performance in introductory college-level course in the environmental sciences


Growing up in rural settings and having prior interactions with nature is associated with better academic performance in college environmental science courses

This study aimed to gain a better understanding of why college students struggle in introductory environmental science (ES) courses and what might be done to adjust teaching practices to promote success and persistence. Over 700 students across eleven introductory ES courses completed a 23-item online survey. Items on the survey included demographic questions and questions relating to student’s interest in ES-related topics, amount of prior ES coursework, childhood residence setting (rural, urban, suburban), and frequency of childhood interactions with components of natural environments (forests, soil, plants, etc.). Researchers then linked survey responses to students’ final grades in their ES course and looked for possible associations.

Results showed that higher grades were positively linked to (a) growing up in a rural setting, (b) having plans to pursue an ES-related career, (c) interacting with forests prior to entering college, and (d) having an understanding of ecosystem processes. Additionally, over 40% of the students with frequent childhood interactions with nature reported that such interactions helped them in their ES course. Over 50% of the students who reported not interacting with forests at all before college earned a below-average grade in their ES course. Factors not significantly associated with student grades in ES courses included academic rank, gender, prior ES coursework, and the number of ES-related extracurricular activities a student participated in during high school.

Overall findings of this study indicate that students from more urban settings and those with fewer childhood interactions with natural environments under-perform relative to their counterparts in introductory ES courses. Population trends indicate that colleges can expect an increase in the percentage of students from urban backgrounds and with limited interactions with natural environments. These findings call attention to the need for further work in identifying and addressing implications for educational practice.


Spero, M.A., Balster, N.J., Bajcz, A.W., (2019). Effects of childhood setting and interaction with nature on academic performance in introductory college-level course in the environmental sciences. Environmental Education Research, 25(3), 422-442.