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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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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)

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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
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)
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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
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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
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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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