International literature about the benefits of connecting with nature
The association between natural environments and depressive symptoms in adolescents living in the United States
Bezold, C. P., Banay, R. F., Coull, B. A., et al. (2017, December 19). Journal of Adolescent Health, available online.
Surrounding greenness, but not blue space, was associated with lower odds of high depressive symptoms in this population of more than 9,000 US adolescents. This association was stronger in middle school students than in high school students. Incorporating vegetation into residential areas may be beneficial for mental health.
Engaging with natural beauty may be related to well-being because it connects people to nature: Evidence from three cultures
Capaldi, C. A., Passmore, H. A., Ishii, R., Chistopolskaya, K. A., et al. (2017, December). Ecopsychology, 9(4), 199-211.
Four cross-sectional surveys involving Canadian, Japanese and Russian undergraduate students were conducted and it was found engagement with natural beauty and nature connectedness were positively associated with a variety of wellbeing measures.
Hassmore, H-A., & Holder, M D. (2017). Positive Psychology, 12(6), 537-546.
The study examined the effects of a two-week nature-based wellbeing intervention. Post-intervention levels of net positive affect, elevating experiences, a general sense of connectedness (to other people, to nature and to life as a whole) and prosocial orientation were significantly higher in the nature group compared to the human-built and control groups.
The relationship between the physical activity environment, nature relatedness, anxiety, and the psychological well-being benefits of regular exercisers
Lawton, E., Brymer, E., Clough, P., & Denovan. A. (2017, June 26). Frontiers in Psychology.
Results challenge the current thinking that the immediate environment in which exercise takes place is the most important factor for the psychological wellbeing outcomes produced.
Mitchell, R. J., Richardson, E. A., & Shortt, N K., et al. (2015, July). American Journal of Preventative Medicine, 49(1) 80–84.
The study investigates which, if any, neighborhood characteristics are associated with narrower socioeconomic inequalities in mental wellbeing in a large, international sample of urban residents.
Exploring potential mechanisms involved in the relationship between eudaimonic wellbeing and nature connection
Cleary, A., Fielding, K. A., & Bell, S. L., et al. (2017, February). Landscape and Urban Planning, 158, 119–128.
The essay examines the limitations in our current understanding of the psychological mechanisms involved in the relationship between nature connection and eudaimonic wellbeing.
The effect of randomised exposure to different types of natural outdoor environments compared to exposure to an urban environment on people with indications of psychological distress in Catalonia
Triguero-Mas, M., Gidlow, C. J., & Martinez, D., et al. (2017, March). PLOS One, March 1, 2017
The study extends the existing evidence on the benefits of natural outdoor environments for people's health.
James, P., Hart, J.E., Banay, R.F., & Laden, F. (2016, April). Environmental Health Perspectives, Advance Publication.
Higher levels of green vegetation are associated with decreased mortality. Policies to increase vegetation may provide opportunities for physical activity, reduce harmful exposures, increase social engagement, and improve mental health.
(2016, February). UK: Natural England.
These nature-based interventions (also called green care and ecotherapy) could be part of a new solution for mental healthcare. However increasing awareness and access to these interventions is challenging given the number of organisations delivering nature-based projects and services, the variety of terms and language used to describe their activity and benefits and the variation in delivery models which use different impact measures.
Gilbert, N. (2016, March 17), Nature, 531, S56–S57.
Exposure to nature makes people happy and could cut mental health inequalities between the rich and poor.
30 days Wild: Development and evaluation of a large-scale nature engagement campaign to improve wellbeing
Richardson, M., Cormack, A., & McRobert, L. (2016, February). PLoS ONE, 11(2).
The campaign asked people to engage with nature every day for a month. About 12,400 people signed up for 30 Days Wild. Samples of those taking part were found to have sustained increases in happiness, health, connection to nature and pro-nature behaviours.
Triguero-Mas, M., et al. (2015, April). Environment International, 77,35-41.
Green spaces are associated with better general and mental health across strata of urbanisation, socioeconomic status, and genders. Mechanisms other than physical activity or social support may explain these associations.
Flourishing in nature: A review of the benefits of connecting with nature and its application as a wellbeing intervention
Capaldi, C.A., et al. (2015). International Journal of Wellbeing, 5(4), 5(4), 1-16.
Nature is certainly not a cure for every ailment and mental health issue. Even so, the evidence suggests that exposure to nature is a health and wellbeing promotion strategy that is underutilised (and perhaps unknown) by mental healthcare providers. Nature interventions may offer opportunities to enhance mood, reduce stress, and promote wellbeing, at relatively low cost. Overall, evidence suggests that connecting with nature is a promising path to flourishing in life.
Mental health benefits of long-term exposure to residential green and blue spaces: A systematic review
Gascon, M., et al. (2015, April 22). International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12(4), 4354-79.
The authors found some evidence for a causal relationship between surrounding greenness and mental health in adults, whereas the evidence was inadequate in children. Given the increase in mental health problems and the current rapid urbanisation worldwide, results of the present systematic review should be taken into account in future urban planning.
(2015, October). UK: MIND.
A booklet introducing ecotherapy, a range of nature-based programmes that can support your wellbeing.
Bratmana, G.N., et al. (2015). PNAS, 112(28), 8567–8572.
The results show in healthy participants that a brief nature experience, eg, a 90-min walk in a natural setting, decreases both self-reported rumination and neural activity in the subgenual prefrontal cortex, whereas a 90-min walk in an urban setting has no such effects on self-reported rumination or neural activity.
Alcock, I., et al. (2014, January). Environmental Science and Technology, 48(2), 1247-55.
Moving to greener urban areas was associated with sustained mental health improvements, suggesting that environmental policies to increase urban green space may have sustainable public health benefits.
Cooper, R., Burton, E., & Cooper, C.L. (Eds.). (2014). Wiley Clinical Psychology Handbooks (Volume II Edition).
Part of the six-volume "Wellbeing: A Complete Reference Guide," this volume examines the ways in which the built environment can affect and enhance the wellbeing of society.
(2013). UK: MIND and EcoMinds.
The authors note ecotherapy uses a life course approach allowing you to develop skills and positive social relationships; it builds strength and resilience with benefits for you and your whole community; it develops sustainable, connected communities that challenge stigma and promote inclusion.
Bragg, R., Wood, C., & Barton, J. (2013). UK: Essex Sustainability institute and School of Biological Sciences, University of Essex.
For the majority of participants both their wellbeing and self-esteem scores showed a statistically significant increase from the beginning to the end of their involvement with Ecominds, indicating an improvement in participant wellbeing over the duration of the Ecominds scheme.
(2013). UK: MIND and EcoMinds.
An infographic from the MIND Ecominds Project highlighting what makes up ecotherapy and the benefits.
(2013). UK: New Economics Foundation and Mind.
From the Ecominds programme, the case study indicates that there are potentially significant economic benefits to the state from these interventions, over and above the impact on the individuals’ wellbeing.
Experiencing connection with nature: the matrix of psychological wellbeing, mindfulness, and outdoor recreation
Wolsko, C., & Lindberg, K. (2013, June). Ecopsychology, 5(2), 80-91.
Higher scores on the Connect with Nature scale are consistently associated with greater trait mindfulness, more participation in appreciative outdoor activities, and higher scores on multiple measures of both hedonic and eudaimonic aspects of psychological wellbeing. Discussion focuses on informing optimal strategies for nature-based interventions.
A systematic review of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments
Bowler D.E., Buyung-Ali L.M., Knight T.M., &., Pullin A.S. (2010). BMC Public Health, 10, doi: 10.1186/1471-2458-10-456.
Overall, the studies are suggestive that natural environments may have direct and positive impacts on wellbeing, but support the need for investment in further research on this question to understand the general significance for public health.
Townsend, T., & Weerasuriya, R. (2010). Deakin University and Beyond Blue.
The report provides a review of existing Australian and international literature on the links between mental health and wellbeing and contact with nature, especially through green spaces.