Getting out in nature really does help to improve mental wellbeing, according to a new report published on World Mental Health Day.
Research by The Wildlife Trusts has found that prescribing contact with nature to people with poor mental health improves their mood and could ease the burden on the NHS.
People experiencing anxiety, stress, and depression reported feeling significantly better – both emotionally and physically – after taking part in outdoor nature conservation projects.
Researchers said: ‘Prescribing nature works – and saves money.
‘A natural, community-based approach to health offers an important non-medical service that will deliver health prevention at scale and reduce the current burden on the NHS.’
The report found for every £1 invested in specialised health or social needs projects that connect people to nature, there is a £6.88 social return.
It also calculated there is an £8.50 social return for every £1 invested in regular nature volunteering projects, which help create healthy lifestyles by tackling problems such as physical inactivity or loneliness.
Dom Higgins, nature and wellbeing manager at The Wildlife Trusts, said: ‘We want to see the concept of nature on prescription becoming a core part of the NHS mental wellbeing programmes.
‘This new report shows the enormous value of a natural health service. It’s also important to have more investment in Wildlife Trust outdoor volunteering which has been proven to improve mental, physical and social wellbeing.
‘In addition, we need many more wild, natural places near to where people live and work. That way, green prescribing can be rolled-out everywhere.
‘This would help the NHS save money, as well as help nature to recover.’
It might be a while before GPs are regularly prescribing time in nature, but in the meantime this research gives us all a nudge to get outside and spend some time in green spaces for the sake of our mental health.