Friday, 30 March 2012

"Nature Deficit Disorder" is not a medical condition

The Today Programme is the BBC's premier morning news radio show. It lasts three hours (from 6 till 9) but inevitably some its subjects are given minimal coverage. One such was this morning's discussion about a report recently released by the National Trust. "Natural Childhood" is authored by Stephen Moss, who was on the programme to support his contention that children are missing out by not spending enough time outdoors. This is all very fine and dandy — I'm in favour of kids getting up close and personal with nature — but unfortunately the National Trust have fallen into the all-too-common view that the way to promote their services (and providing services is what they do by charging admission to their properties) is to spin the reduced outdoor-time as some kind of medical condition.

Taking up an invented syndrome and running with it is a bad way to promote yourself; as a member of the National Trust myself I find this tactic regrettable. "Nature Deficit Disorder" is not a recognised medical condition — Stephen Moss's report even acknowledges this, so why is he using it to spin the statistics to indicate that children are being harmed?

Aleks Krotoski has ably covered this in the Guardian, and she was on the Today Programme to debunk Stephen Moss's disingenuous PR:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9709000/9709957.stm

The report itself is available here:

http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/servlet/file/store5/item789980/version2/natural_childhood.pdf

It has over 100 references and notes at the end, appearing appropriately scholarly for its 28 pages. I noticed, however, that one of those references was to something by Aric Sigman, which did not inspire confidence (it prompted a search for the word "Greenfield" — though thankfully that yielded no results).
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