Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science




Gilliland, Jason


A growing body of research suggests that increasing children’s exposure to natural environments can have positive benefits for their overall health and well-being. Using a mixed-methods approach, this thesis uses (a) surveys and spatial analyses within a geographic information system framework to examine how individual-level and environmental factors are associated with children’s health-related quality of life (HRQOL), and (b) semi-structured focus groups with children to understand how children living in a rural community define nature, experience nature, and perceive the benefits and drawbacks of nature. Results suggest that in addition to a number of important individual level variables, certain environmental characteristics were associated with higher levels of HRQOL. Qualitative findings build on these results demonstrating that children are aware of the mental health benefits of interacting with nature. The findings have implications for future research, policymakers, health practitioners, educators, and parents.