Feeling close to nature reduces the risk of animal phobias

More than 4 billion people live in an urbanized area around the world. This will be the case for two thirds of the world’s population by 2050. The city is eating on territories, and at the same time people are losing touch with nature. To fear it? An international team wanted to know if a certain connection with nature makes it possible to protect oneself against animal phobias and more specifically against an irrational fear of snakes and spiders.

Fewer fears and phobias among people associated with nature

More than 1,000 Hungarian participants were asked about their connection to nature, but also about their fear of snakes and spiders, the most common animal phobias. Photographs of these animals were also presented to them and they were to state their feelings. The results obtained and published on February 23, 2022 in the journal people and nature, points out that people who feel closest to nature had lower “scores” in terms of their fear of spiders and snakes. This is also the case for respondents living in less urbanized areas. “The results show that the more people feel connected to nature, the less they are affected by fear or phobias of animals, the researchers point out. We believe that this study is important for both conservation efforts and therapeutic interventions.“.

An extreme and irrational fear

Because being phobic is a real health problem. In fact, this anxiety disorder can greatly reduce the quality of life for people who have it. This extreme and irrational fear disrupts their daily lives. They try to avoid any confrontation with the phobic stimulus and can quickly get into trouble if they do.

At the same time, the benefits of regular contact with nature are in no doubt. “A large number of previous reviews, meta-analyzes and experimental data suggest that connection with nature can improve health, improve mood, reduce stress and promote well-being and happiness.“, recalls this new study.

And tackling animal phobias is also important for the conservation of nature. “Animals that are primarily associated with negative emotions are often victims of systematic persecution and killing“, the researchers recall. A glaring example: in 2009, a survey revealed that the majority of high school students in Turkey (70.8%) do not like snakes and that they think they should all be you are beautiful.

An association whose significance remains to be discussed

However, it is still difficult to know in which direction the connection between love of nature and the absence of animal phobia is established. “A connection to nature can make people less afraid of snakes and spiders. However, it is also possible that people with less fear of snakes and spiders are therefore more interested in nature and feel a stronger connection to the natural environment.“, notes Dr. Coelho, co-author of the study, in a press release. The relationship between nature and animal phobia is therefore still left to be discussed.

In any case, this research is the first to show that a relationship with nature – a previous experience with nature and an environmentally friendly way of thinking – can serve as a protective factor against animal phobias. But the researchers want to move on. “I would like to see if the same connection between attachment to nature and fear of animals would be found in other countries with different cultures, different levels of urbanization and potentially different attitudes towards animals“, Specifies Dr. Polak, also co-author of the study.

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