There may be another epidemic being exacerbated by some of the current measures being taken to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. Unlike COVID-19, this epidemic affects young people more than older generations and has been getting worse in the last several decades. It is called nature deficit disorder (NDD), a name given to the disease by Richard Louv, who wrote Last Child in the Woods.
Some of the symptoms he cites are attention problems, anxiety, depression, diminished use of senses, and obesity. I would add that there could be a lowered immune system due to lack of Vitamin D and, perhaps most serious in this era of climate change and environmental degradation, a lack of understanding and appreciation of the natural world.
By encouraging people to stay indoors on their electronic devices and barring access to many outdoor venues like parks, our society is creating a breeding ground for NDD. The B.C. Public Health Officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, has said from the beginning that people should go outside for fresh air and exercise, but the places to do this have become more and more restricted. This actually concentrates people into smaller artificial areas like sidewalks and streets.
Certainly we should not play sports in which COVID-19 could be transmitted, but it is important for everyone, especially children and young people, to spend time out in the natural world. It is easier and healthier to exercise and maintain physical distancing in the great outdoors. Safe access to green spaces should be an essential service. I sincerely hope that current practices do not become habitual, or we might see nature deficit disorder becoming the new pandemic.