In a study from UCL and elsewhere, scientists found nature is a powerful tool that can be harnessed by social prescribers to improve people’s health and well-being.
They extracted evidence from hundreds of high-quality studies, examining the experiences of thousands of people to understand how nature has affected them.
The result is a large body of evidence showing the many ways in which spending time in nature, and connecting with it, is beneficial for our health and well-being.
One recent study showed that spending 120 minutes per week benefits your health and well-being.
Another study showed that adults and communities exposed to local green spaces show a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity, and increased likelihood of physical activity.
Gardening has been shown to be particularly beneficial to both physical and mental health.
The studies demonstrate that there is now a large body of research evidence reporting the benefits of the natural environment on mental health.
Benefits linked to exposure to nature include increased well-being, including subjective well-being, happiness, resilience, and reduced social isolation.
Exposure to nature can also lead to a decrease in symptoms associated with PTSD and ADHD (when offered alongside therapeutic and mindfulness activities).
The team found living or working close to nature can lead to many physical and mental health benefits, such as lower levels of heart or respiratory problems, lower blood pressure, lower levels of stress and physical symptoms of stress, lowered risk of diabetes and obesity, COVID-19 and slower cognitive decline.
According to the review, there is strong and consistent evidence that shows how green space around the home is associated with lower rates of all-cause mortality (death for any reason).
The researchers found strong evidence for nature’s benefits for children specifically. Spending time in nature is associated with better health, and increasing children’s physical activity, well-being, and cognitive performance.
Both contact with and connection with nature can play a role in improving health and well-being outcomes.
While time in nature is associated with our general health, ‘nature connection’—how we think and feel about nature—appears to be associated with improvements in our well-being too, but more research is needed in this area.
If you care about wellness, please read studies about exercise that is vital to improving longevity in older people, and Krill oil could improve muscle health in older people.
For more information about wellness, please see recent studies about drinking coffee linked to increased longevity, and results showing these vitamins could help reduce bone fracture risk.
The study was conducted by Professor Helen Chatterjee et al.
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