More than eight in ten (85 per cent) children and young people agreed that being outdoors in nature made them very happy, Natural England research findings suggest.
The Children’s People and Nature Survey asked a younger and nationally representative sample to report on their thoughts and feelings about environmental protection, as well as wider topics such as what they enjoy most about nature and what prevents them from getting outdoors.
78 per cent agreed that looking after the environment was important to them, and 81 per cent said they wanted to do more to look after the environment.
Crucially ahead of COP26, 46 per cent of those surveyed do not think adults are doing enough to protect the environment – an increase of seven per cent since last year.
Marian Spain, Natural England chief executive said: “The message is clear: children and young people care deeply about the natural environment and are eager to act.
“With COP26 just around the corner, we must seize on this as an opportunity to make lasting change in what will be a crucial year for the environment.”
Children spending time outside at least once a week were more likely to rate their anxiety as ‘low’.
Most (96 per cent) of children and young people spent time outdoors beyond the garden at least once during the week.
Marian added: “The research also shows that not all children have the same opportunities to enjoy nature.
“We need to heed the call of future generations and ensure that children and young people – wherever they live and whatever their background – can access good quality green spaces close to home – and reap the benefits to health, wellbeing and quality of life that being in nature brings to us all.”
Although concern for the environment was very high across all groups surveyed, younger children and those with higher household income were most likely to be concerned.
Children and young people aged 8-11 were more likely to agree that looking after the environment was important to them than those aged 12-15.
Those with a higher household income (greater than £50k) were more likely to agree that looking after the environment was important to them (82 per cent) than those with household income less than £15k (68 per cent).
Natural England continues to work with Defra and the Department for Education on the Children and Nature programme to improve the physical and mental wellbeing of children from disadvantaged backgrounds.
This includes a range of work, including training and support for school staff, providing outdoor resources, improvements to school grounds for wildlife and learning, and opportunities for off-site visits or residential stays in nature.