Sense of Place

The Sense of Place Vital Sign is a composite of two separate indices and a baseline measure of satisfaction derived from existing national survey data. Sense of place is defined as the extent to which people identify with and feel positively attached to a specific place. Several studies have demonstrated that not only does a strong sense of place contribute to human wellbeing, but that it can also contribute to a desire to protect the natural environment. Sense of place is clearly linked to other human wellbeing measures, particularly cultural and psychological measures, and is thus an informative, all-encompassing measure of well being. The measure of overall life satisfaction will be used as a baseline against which to assess changes in status of most of the other Human Wellbeing indicators.


Key Vital Sign Messages

  • Puget Sound residents have a strong sense of place, regularly spend time outdoors, and are largely satisfied with their lives.

  • Puget Sound residents have a strong sense of pride and identity associated with nature. 

  • Puget Sound residents spend time outdoors to reduce stress and to experience inspiration.

  • Between 2018-2020, Puget Sound residents’ sense of place of the natural environment slightly increased.

  • Residents’ strong connections to nature partly stem from cultural and outdoor activities. For example, residents develop connections to nature through shellfish harvesting

  • Puget Sound newcomers and long-term residents share a strong connection to the region’s natural environment.

  • Residents also feel attached to the region’s shorelines.  

  • People with a strong sense of place are likely to be environmental stewards and support pro-environmental plans and policies.

  • Sense of place reflects residents’ different and shared emotions, memories, values, identities, and actions associated with the natural environment.

  • Puget Sound residents’ life satisfaction varied by county but is slightly higher than other regions of the United States, according to the World Happiness Report.

Strategies, Actions, and Effectiveness

Contributing Partners

David Trimbach, Oregon State University
Last Updated