Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Science (MS)


Environment and Society

Committee Chair(s)

Courtney Flint


Courtney Flint


Mark Brunson


Jessica Schad


Research suggests that feeling connected to the natural world and feeling socially connected to your community positively influence wellbeing. However, significant demographic shifts within communities may reduce the amount of social and nature-based connectedness enjoyed by residents. As one of the fastest growing states, data from within Utah likely provides important insights related to how population growth impacts connectedness and wellbeing. Considering this, the present research investigated the relationships between personal wellbeing, community connection, and connection with nature in the context of Utah's rapid population growth by utilizing quantitative survey data from the Utah Wellbeing Project and demographic information from the American Community Survey (ACS). As a secondary goal, this research also investigated how participation in certain nature-based activities was related to community connection and if these relationships varied depending on the level of population growth.

Results indicate there was a positive association between community connection and connection with nature, and between both forms of connectedness and personal wellbeing. However, population growth only negligibly impacted community connection, connection with nature, and their respective relationships with personal wellbeing. Instead, certain demographic variables were most influential. Older respondents and those who identify as a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints rated their community connection higher than other groups, while older respondents and those with household incomes of $150,000 or above rated their connection with nature and personal wellbeing higher than other groups. Religious preference was also associated with personal wellbeing, but considerably less explanatory when considering community connections' contribution to wellbeing; indicating that the wellbeing of members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was more comparable to other groups in the study when controlling for community-based social connections.

Additionally, those who participated in certain nature-based activities were more likely to rate their community connection high than those who did not, but these differences were most pronounced in communities experiencing more growth. Local leaders and community planners could likely improve resident wellbeing by stimulating opportunities to connect with other people and the natural environment, and by considering demographic differences and inequities.