The brain is always monitoring sounds for signs of danger, even during sleep. Unwanted sounds can have a range of mental health effects.
In a study from King’s College London, scientists found that seeing or hearing birds is associated with an improvement in mental well-being that can last up to eight hours.
This improvement was also found in people with a diagnosis of depression.
This suggests the potential role of birdlife in helping those with mental health conditions.
In the study, the team used the smartphone application Urban Mind to collect people’s real-time reports of mental well-being alongside their reports of seeing or hearing birdsong.
They tested 1,292 participants completing 26,856 assessments using the Urban Mind app.
The app asked participants three times a day whether they could see or hear birds, followed by questions on mental well-being to enable researchers to establish an association between the two and to estimate how long this association lasted.
The team also collected information on existing diagnoses of mental health conditions.
They found that hearing or seeing birdlife was associated with improvements in mental well-being in both healthy people and those with depression.
The researchers showed that the links between birds and mental well-being were not explained by co-occurring environmental factors such as the presence of trees, plants, or waterways.
The team says the term ecosystem services is often used to describe the benefits of certain aspects of the natural environment on our physical and mental health.
However, it can be difficult to prove these benefits scientifically. This study provides an evidence base for creating and supporting biodiverse spaces that harbor birdlife since this is strongly linked to our mental health.
In addition, the findings support the implementation of measures to increase opportunities for people to come across birdlife, particularly for those living with mental health conditions such as depression.
For more information about mental health, please see recent studies about a daily habit that is a powerful medicine for depression, and results showing sitting during the COVID-19 pandemic linked to depression.
The study was conducted by Ryan Hammoud et al and published in Scientific Reports.
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