A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Generation Y Attitudes to Nature, Wellbeing and Rural Tourism

A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Generation Y Attitudes to Nature, Wellbeing and Rural Tourism

Melanie Smith (Budapest Metropolitan University of Applied Sciences, Hungary) and Gabriela Corina Slusariuc (University of Petrosani, Romania)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9761-4.ch009
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This study focuses on questionnaire research which explores the attitudes and perceptions of Generation Y to nature-based activities. Case studies are given of Hungary and Romania, which are largely rural countries, but which have relatively low levels of health, wellbeing and happiness compared to the EU and OECD average. It is argued that new ways need to be found of developing a healthier, happier society, especially amongst the younger generations, such as increasing time spent in nature. More than 350 questionnaires were collected in a number of countries but the majority were from Hungary and Romania from students aged approximately 21-30. There were asked about their reasons for going to the countryside regularly (or not); their preferred activities and types of landscape, their perceptions of the health benefits of nature; and their intentions to spend more time in nature in the future, either as a resident or a tourist.
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In recent years, research has been done in an international context which shows that there is a definite connection between being in nature and feeling healthier and happier. This is especially important for those citizens who live in super-industrialized societies where stress levels are high. This can include physical, mental, psychological and even spiritual benefits. The relationship between activities undertaken in natural or rural areas and increased wellbeing is considered very important. Previous research from such fields as eco-psychology and public health have shown the physical, mental, psychological and spiritual benefits of spending more time in green spaces.

Several terms are very important in this study.

Nature is defined as green areas, usually in the countryside, outside built up areas (i.e. towns) and which have few man-made attractions. However, it is accepted that urban parks or riverside areas could technically be part of this category. Often the word ’rural’ is used as being synonymous with nature, as most of the natural areas in Hungary, for example, tend to be in rural locations (e.g. outside large towns). Typical natural landscapes might include the following:

  • National parks

  • Forests and woods

  • Hills and mountains

  • Villages

  • Farms

  • Lakes and rivers

  • Wine regions (vineyards)

Activities which are commonly undertaken in natural or rural areas can include the following:

  • Hiking, running/jogging,

  • Mountain or rock climbing,

  • Caving,

  • Outdoor adventure sports,

  • Cycling,

  • Horseriding,

  • Skating and skiing,

  • Fruit or mushroom picking,

  • Looking at flowers, trees and plants,

  • Spotting wildlife or birds,

  • Visiting villages, going to festivals and community events

  • Picnics, eating local food, drinking local wine,

  • Fishing and hunting.

The second term used in the title of the research is wellbeing’. Seligman (2003) uses the words happiness and wellbeing interchangeably, but The New Economics Foundation (2004) makes a distinction between happiness and wellbeing as follows:

Wellbeing is more than just happiness. As well as feeling satisfied and happy, wellbeing means developing as a person, being fulfilled, and making a contribution to the community.

Van den Eynde and Fisher (2013) also define wellbeing compared to health:

The achievement of health (is) described as activities predominately related to physical health, such as nutrition or exercise. Alternatively, as a state of being or feeling, wellbeing is achieved by connections with family or community, with an emphasis upon making the best of life by self contentment and less stress.


The Relationship Between Nature And Wellbeing

The New Economics Foundation (2008) suggest that “The more you relate to nature, the more positive your emotions and the greater your life satisfaction”. According to Howard Clinebell (2006) the idea of ‘ecotherapy’ refers to healing and growth nurtured by healthy interaction with the earth. He also called it ‘green therapy’ and ‘earth-centered therapy’. The International Association for Ecotherapy (2013) described it as “the reinvention of psycho-therapy as if nature mattered.” Ecotherapy uses a range of practices in order to help people connect with nature and ultimately their ‘inner’ nature’ (Ecotherapy.org.uk, 2013).

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