The influence of social context and activity on the emotional well-being of forest visitors: A field study

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The influence of contact with nature on emotional well-being is well-documented. Yet less is known about how social context and engaging in activities in nature settings affect emotional well-being. This field study aimed to address these issues. A questionnaire was distributed among visitors to six forests in Israel (N = 559). The questionnaire included demographic variables, type of activity (relaxing, hiking, or sport), the social configuration of visitor groups, group size, presence of children, and emotional well-being variables (positive affect, negative affect, vitality, and happiness). The results showed that engaging exclusively in relaxing activities is associated with a lower level of positive affect than engaging in all three types of activities (relaxing, hiking and sport) or than engaging in a combination of hiking and sport. The results also showed that being alone in the forest is associated with lower levels of happiness and vitality than being in the company of others. Being with children in the forest was associated with lower levels of positive affect than being there without children. Nevertheless, as the number of adults in the group with children increased, positive affect increased accordingly. The research findings extend our understanding of the emotional benefits of engaging in physical activity and being with others while spending time in natural environments. Moreover, the findings indicate that research on natural restorative environments must take the social context and forms of activity into consideration.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102234
JournalJournal of Environmental Psychology
StatePublished - Mar 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2024 Elsevier Ltd


  • Activity
  • Children
  • Emotional well-being
  • Forests
  • Hiking
  • Restorative environments
  • Sport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology


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