Subjective wellbeing (SWB) is positively associated with both social connectedness and contact with natural environments. However, few studies have explored how these two predictors of SWB might interact. The current work hypothesised that high levels of nature exposure might mitigate (or buffer) any negative effects of a lack of recent social connectedness on wellbeing, by offering an alternative way for individuals to connect with the world around them. Results are based on data from 359 individuals who responded to an online survey in the UK. Measures of SWB, social connectedness and nature visit frequency all focused on the last seven days, and nearby nature was assessed in terms of the view from home and surrounding area. Regression models predicting SWB used interaction terms to test the buffering hypothesis, and controlled for sociodemographic and personality variables. Supporting predictions, social connectedness, nearby nature, and nature visit frequency were all positively associated with SWB. Partially supporting our buffering hypothesis, nearby nature, but not nature visit frequency, moderated the relationship between social connectedness and SWB. People with poor social connectedness still showed high levels of wellbeing if they reported high levels of nearby nature, and there was a lower likelihood of levels of wellbeing associated with depression among those with poor social connectedness if they had high nearby nature. Results confirmed the importance of nature exposure for wellbeing in itself, and highlighted its potential role in offering socially isolated individuals a way of satisfying the need to feel connected.
Keywords: natural environments; perceived nature; social connectedness; subjective wellbeing.