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Influences of a Wilderness Experience on Individual Health and Wellbeing: A Case Study on Fraser Island Belinda Warren Science Honours Student 2005 Supervisors: Dr Anne Neller Assoc. Prof. Ron Neller. Isn’t it obvious that it’s beneficial?.

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Isn t it obvious that it s beneficial

Influences of a Wilderness Experience on Individual Health and Wellbeing: A Case Study on Fraser IslandBelinda WarrenScience Honours Student 2005Supervisors: Dr Anne Neller Assoc. Prof. Ron Neller


Isn t it obvious that it s beneficial

Isn’t it obvious that it’s beneficial?

  • Environmental Health research is mainly centred on the adverse effects of various environmental exposures

  • Environmental exposures may have positive health effects

  • Intuitive, however,

    • Anecdotal and empirical evidence lacking on actual benefits

    • Theoretical and empirical evidence lacking on the role environments play in facilitating social connectedness

    • No evidence on the extent, nature and process of the impact of nature on health or quality of life


The biophilia hypothesis

The Biophilia Hypothesis

  • Humans are innately attracted to other living organisms

  • Four aspects of the Natural World:

    Animals Plants Landscapes Wilderness

  • Evidence:

    Real estate Preservation

    Knowledge of natural settings increases survival


Health approach

Health Approach

“Although everybody knows what it feels like to be healthy, it is impossible to give a precise definition; health is a subjective experience whose quality can be known intuitively, but can never be exhaustively described or quantified.” (Capra, 1983)


Isn t it obvious that it s beneficial

Aim

“To Characterise the influences of a wilderness experience on the individual health and wellbeing among tour guests on Fraser Island.”


Research questions

Research Questions

  • What are the influences of a wilderness experience on the health and wellbeing of tour guests on Fraser Island?

  • Is the degree of health benefit derived from a wilderness experience associated with:

    • Level of pre-existing health and wellbeing status

    • The length of the wilderness experience

    • Level of social connectedness experienced among group members


Methodology

Methodology


Research approach

Research Approach

  • Survey

    • Similar studies used this approach

    • Appropriate for time-frame and budget

    • Strengths:

      • Can measure extent & nature of phenomenon

      • Comparisons to previous studies possible

      • Survey can be replicated

  • One-day and Three-day Tour Groups (n = 216)

  • Cluster Sampling


Questionnaire design

Questionnaire Design

  • General Themes were:

    • Motivations and Purpose

    • Perceptions of Experience

    • Subjective Wellbeing

    • Self-reported health status

    • Demographics

  • Face-to-face interviews

    • Brief and non-structured

    • More detailed perspective


Data collection methods

Data Collection Methods

• Instrument: self-administered questionnaire

  • cost effective

  • closed and open-ended

  • effective for sensitive data

  • groups surveyed in a relatively short time

  • Limitations

    • varying literacy and language skills

    • questionnaires limit the ‘depth’ of responses


  • Data analysis

    Data Analysis

    • Quantitative Analysis

      • Descriptive Analyses to summarise data

      • Pearson’s Chi Square to compare 2 tour groups

      • Mann-Whitney Tests on non-parametric data

      • Factor analysis: data reduction

      • Pre-defined instruments as per instructions

    • Analysis of Qualitative Data

      • Responses collapsed into common categories


    Demographics and characteristics of experience

    Demographics and Characteristics of Experience

    One-day Group

    Three-day Group

    Equal Male and Female

    Older/Couples

    Younger/ Singles

    ¾ English Speaking

    Domestic

    International

    83% First Trip

    Positive Perceptions:

    Higher Educational Qualifications

    Lower Educational Qualifications

    Scenery, Awe & Wonder

    Learning, Conservation

    Lakes, Relaxation

    Residence: House

    Residence: Unit/Flat

    Visitor Numbers more than expected

    Visitor Numbers about as expected


    Motivations for visiting

    Motivations for Visiting

    • • Top factors:

      • Relaxation

      • Nature

      • Personal

    • 4. Away

    • 5. Practical

    • 6. Culture

    Median (and mean) Scores of Motivational Items for Visitation to Fraser Island for One-day and Three-day Tour Groups

    1 = not important; 5 = very important


    Influences on health and wellbeing

    Influences on Health and Wellbeing

    Influences of a Wilderness Experience on Health and Wellbeing for One-day and Three-day Tour Groups on Fraser Island


    Changes in health and wellbeing

    Changes in Health and Wellbeing

    > 50 - Positive change

    Self-reported changes for Fraser Island One-day and Three-day Tour Respondents


    Physical and mental health

    Physical and Mental Health

    (r = -0.231, p = .002, n = 185)

    Association between Physical Health and Compatibility for all Tour Guests

    Association between Mental Health and Compatibility for all Tour Guests

    (r = 0.210, p = .004, n = 185)


    Personal wellbeing associations

    Personal Wellbeing Associations

    • Those who rated highly on the Personal Wellbeing Index indicated more positive change in their health and wellbeing (r = 0.199, p = .016, n = 147)

    Association between Personal Wellbeing and Negative Emotion for all Tour Guests

    (r = -0.159, p = .042, n = 166)


    Social connectedness associations

    Social Connectedness Associations

    • Social Connectedness

      • Trust

      • Reciprocity

      • Diversity

        …..is significantly associated with……

    • Perceived Restorativeness Scale

      • Being Away (rs = .171, p = .020, n = 185)

      • Compatibility (rs = .161, p = .029, n = 184)

      • Fascination (rs = .208, p = .004, n = 186)

      • Coherence (rs = .234, p = .001, n = 184)


    Isn t it obvious that it s beneficial

    • Length of stay:

      • No significant correlations

    • Interviews:

      • Stated how their mood had changed

      • Suggestions – eg. more time, info booklet


    Limitations

    Limitations

    • Language and literacy skills of the respondents

    • Honesty from respondents, although anonymous self-completion

    • Data only provides a snapshot; seasonal variations

    • Survey may not have been adequate to capture the complex issues

    • Case study – only Fraser Island


    Summary

    Summary

    • To Characterise the influences of a wilderness experience on the individual health and wellbeing among tour guests on Fraser Island

    • Self-administered Questionnaire & Face-to-face Interviews

    • The degree of health benefit derived from a wilderness experience…

      …is associated with:

      • Level of pre-existing health and wellbeing status

      • Level of social connectedness experienced among group members

        …is NOT associated with:

      • The length of the wilderness experience


    Where now

    Where now?

    • Recommendations for research:

      • More empirical research with the tourist population; experimental

      • Increase sample size

      • Comparative tours that are much longer in length

    • Implications for the future:

      • Contact with parks and nature is affordable, non-elitist and highly accessible

      • Key stake holders (ie. Tour operators) can promote benefits


    Isn t it obvious that it s beneficial

    Influences of a Wilderness Experience on Individual Health and Wellbeing: A Case Study on Fraser IslandBelinda WarrenScience Honours Student 2005Supervisors: Dr Anne Neller Assoc. Prof. Ron Neller


    Isn t it obvious that it s beneficial

    Attention Restoration Theory

    • Grounded in cognitive psychology

    • Focuses on how the interaction with nature is important for effective mental functioning

    • Directed attention: requires effort; voluntary control; suppress focus towards a competing, more interesting activity; susceptible to fatigue.

    • Fascination, being away, extent, and compatibility – Perceived Restorativeness Scale


    Health approach1

    Health Approach

    • “A complete state of physical, mental and social wellbeing, and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”(WHO, 1948)

    • “Although everybody knows what it feels like to be healthy, it is impossible to give a precise definition; health is a subjective experience whose quality can be known intuitively, but can never be exhaustively described or quantified.” (Capra, 1983)

    • Primary Health Care: emphasises social justice, equitable distribution of services, community participation & involvement, prevention, use of a range of sectors to respond to the needs of local populations.


    Current body of knowledge

    Current Body of Knowledge

    • Recent research:

      • Personal/commercial interest in wilderness experiences (wilderness therapy) (Frumkin 2001)

      • Predominantly Theoretical

      • US-based

    • Gaps:

      • Little Australian research

      • How long a wilderness experience is

      • Level of pre-existing health and wellbeing status

      • Contributing factor: social connectedness


    Target population

    • International Tourists

    • International Tourists

    • Australians

    • Australians

    Target Population

    Short-term Arrivals

    • Fishermen

    • Resort Guests

      • KBRV

      • Eurong

    • Adventurers

    • Independent Campers

    • Resort Visitors

      • Day Trips out of KBRV

    • Tour Groups

      • 3 Days

      • Guided

    • Walkers/Hikers


    Previous activity and main mood

    Previous Activity and Main Mood

    Main Mood of Fraser Island Tour Respondents in Previous Four Weeks

    Previous Activity in Last Four Weeks for One-day and Three-day Fraser Island Tour Respondents


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