Nature Deficit Disorder in the time of COVID-19

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Singapore has issued a ‘circuit breaker’ where Singaporeans have been advised to stay home as much as possible. Non-essential workers have to work from home, and schools are carrying out home-based learning. Only essential activities like going to get groceries, or getting packed food are allowed. Shopping malls, gymnasiums, and swimming pools are also closed, leaving the only option for Singaporeans’ leisure to be parks.

Singapore, being a 100% urbanised city, has a population that suffers from Nature Deficit Disorder (NDD). Although NDD is not an official medical diagnosis, it is an explanation for erratic behaviours, moods, and poor health, in an individual due to the lack of time spent in nature or outdoors.

With the implementation of the ‘circuit breaker’, people are being forced to spend time outdoors and in parks for leisure since they are the only places of leisure that still remain accessible. Studies have shown that by spending more time in nature, one should see an improvement in their health and mood. Does this mean that once we come out of this pandemic and ‘circuit breaker’, Singaporeans will be a healthier and happier group of people? It’s possible.

On the other hand, some people do not have the privilege of spending time outside. Since everything is now based at home, it blurs the line between work and rest, resulting in work being more demanding. For essential workers (healthcare workers, supermarket retail assistants, delivery riders, etc.), they would be required to be at their jobs which are now asking even more from them. Along with the high levels of stress at work coupled with the lack of time available to spend in nature, would this further exacerbate the effects of NDD? It’s possible.

Therefore, this is something for all of us to consider. The Singaporean habit which leaves us detached from nature is concerning when it comes to NDD. However, will the ‘circuit breaker’ caused by COVID-19 be able to alleviate the problems of NDD that is widespread in a highly urbanised city like Singapore? Or will it exacerbate the problem instead?


Ministry of Health Singapore. (2020, April 3). Circuit Breaker to Minimise Further Spread of COVID-19 [Press release]. Retrieved April, 2020, from

Louv, R. (2013). Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. London: Atlantic Books.

University of East Anglia, UEA Norwich Medical School. (2018, July 6). It’s official – spending time outside is good for you [Press release]. Retrieved April, 2020, from

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