A recent study put out by the the University of Essex’s Center for Environment and Society found that giving adolescent offenders an opportunity to participate in wilderness experiences seems to decrease substance abuse and anti-social behaviors (running away, criminal activity, verbal and physical fighting). It also seems to increase self confidence, feelings of belongingness and connection to nature.
The study took a group of offenders from the area and enrolled them in a nine-month project consisting of weekly life coaching, monthly workshops and two wilderness trips, occurring at the beginning and end of the program. The sharpest increase in self esteem was seen after the first wilderness trip at the beginning of the program. By the end of the program, participants were able to self report feeling a greater sense of efficacy, and that observation was supported through verified measures.
Wilderness experience seems to be beneficial for people across the spectrum of human experience. After spending time outdoors, other research supports the idea that people typically have “reduced stress levels, improved mood, enhanced psychological well-being and improved attention and concentration.”
University of Essex (2009, January 6). Power Of Wilderness Experiences As A Catalyst For Change In Young Offenders. ScienceDaily. Retrieved February 20, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com /releases/2009/01/090105091536.htm