NZ research

New Zealand literature about the benefits of connecting with nature

Residential exposure to visible blue space (but not green space) associated with lower psychological distress in a capital city 

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A.L., Kingham, S., & Reitsma, F. (2016, March 11). Health Place, 39,70-78. Epub ahead of print.

Higher levels of blue space visibility are associated with lower psychological distress. Importantly, blue space visibility is not significantly associated with tooth loss.

The nature of wellbeing: How nature’s ecosystems services contribute to the wellbeing of New Zealand and New Zealanders

Roberts, L., et al. (2015). Wellington: Department of Conservation.

The evidence assembled in this report demonstrates that the ecosystem services that are delivered by indigenous biodiversity and natural landscapes contribute in a very wide variety of ways to the wellbeing of New Zealand and New Zealanders. 

Eco-therapy good for Kiwis 

(2015, November). Mental Health Foundation NZ.

Spending time in nature improves wellbeing. It’s not just something that’s nice to do, it’s good for your mental and physical health. That’s why the Mental Health Foundation is delighted to be partnering with the Department of Conservation to promote good mental health and protect New Zealand’s precious environment. 

Report No.3 Take Charge: Exercise and wellbeing in New Zealand

Mackay, L.M., Prendergast, K., Schofield, G.M., & Jarden, A. (2015, November). Auckland: AUT Human Potential Centre and Sovereign.

The survey finds those exercising in natural settings had a greater prevalence of being awesome, happiness, and high energy, than those who did not exercise outdoors in natural settings. Outdoor settings were associated with a slightly lower prevalence of depressed mood than indoor settings.

Survey of New Zealanders 

(2015, June). Department of Conservation.

Spending time in nature or enjoying scenery and spending time with family and friends are the most popular reasons for using a Department of Conservation area. There are also those claiming to want to get away from it all, have a physical challenge or to improve health. 

The eco-friendly therapist: An interpretative literature review of obstacles and solutions to practicing ecotherapy 

Selina, C. (2014). A dissertation submitted to Auckland University of Technology.

Ecotherapy uses the restorative qualities that nature offers by stepping outside the therapy room, or through bringing elements of nature indoors. This dissertation provides a history and overview of ecotherapy practice, along with a summary of ecotherapy modalities. 

An ecological study investigating the association between access to urban green space and mental health

Nutsford, D., Pearson, A.L. and Kingham, S. (2013, November). Public Health, 127, 1005-1011.

The study finds that decreased distance to useable green space and increased proportion of green space within the larger neighbourhood are associated with decreased anxiety/mood disorder treatment counts in an urban environment.

Health and wellbeing benefits of conservation in New Zealand

Blaschke, P. (2013). Wellington: Department of Conservation.

The report identifies sources of data and expertise that are required to further analyse the relationships between conservation investment and human health, discusses the value of conservation investment as measured by health outcomes, and describes measures that would improve the alignment between conservation management and potential health and wellbeing benefits in New Zealand.

Sovereign Wellbeing Index: New Zealand’s first measure of wellbeing 

(2013). Auckland: AUT Human Potential Centre and Sovereign.

The Five Ways to Wellbeing were all strongly associated with higher wellbeing (connect, give, take notice, keep learning, be active). Flourishing scores increase linearly with taking notice. People who take notice more are flourishing more. Older adults take more notice of their surroundings and more Maori/Pacific people take notice compared to other ethnic groups.

The relationship between sustainable environmental practices and positive mental health

(2011). Auckland: Mental Health Foundation.

The natural environment is fundamentally important to both physical and psychological wellbeing, so actions that promote and protect the natural environment help to increase the ability to flourish in life. In turn, people and communities that are flourishing, eg, have high levels of wellbeing, tend to be environmentally responsible in their behaviour and can, therefore, contribute to environmental sustainability.

Effective approaches to connect children with nature: Principles for effectively engaging children and young people with nature 

Wilson, C. (2011). Wellington: Department of Conservation.

Frequent, positive early childhood experiences with nature have a major impact on the healthy growth of a child’s mind, body and spirit. The Department of Conservation’s National Education Strategy emphasises the importance of children and young people connecting with nature, and developing conservation knowledge, values and skills to enable them to get involved and make a difference.

Exploring nature with children 

(2011). Hamilton: Department of Conservation.

Parents, grandparents and/or guardians have a critical role in fostering that natural ‘sense of wonder’ that kids have. This booklet is designed to give families practical ideas to share and enjoy the natural world – whether it be in your own backyard or out and about in local parks, reserves and beyond.  

Time Use Survey: 2009/10 

(2011). Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

The average time average time per day spent on all primary exercise or sporting activities is 19 minutes.

Healthy open spaces: A summary of the impact of open spaces on health and wellbeing

Regional Public Health (2010, March): Lower Hutt: Regional Public Health.

This paper has illustrated that the quality and type of open space provided within communities can have a significant and sustained impact on community health and wellbeing.


Healthy Places, Healthy Lives: Urban environments and wellbeing

Public Health Advisory Committee. (2010). Wellington: Ministry of Health.

The authors note that there is some evidence that increases in stress and anxiety can be due to traffic congestion and related travel delays are linked to high blood pressure, more sick days off work, more days in hospital and poorer job performance. In contrast, access to high-quality green space is linked with quicker recovery from stress and lower rates of depression.

Linking farmer wellbeing and environmentally sustainable land use: A comparison between converting organic and conventional dairy farmer

Mortlock, B., & Hunt, L.M. (2008). Agriculture Research Group on Sustainability.

The report provides a description of the relationship between wellbeing achieved by farming and the care of the environment as revealed in interviews with dairy farmers participating in the ARGOS programme. Its purpose was to indicate how environmental care might be part of farmers' everyday life and become part of their sense of wellbeing and way of living a meaningful life.

The 5 natural ways

Five natural ways to wellbeing


Me Whakawhanaunga 

Connecting with nature is great for you! The beauty is in how simple it can be. Remember if you can’t get outside, you can always bring the outdoors in.


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Nature provides, it gives everything needed to not only survive, but thrive. Here’s some cool ways you can give back to nature:


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Take notice

 Me aro tonu

It's common to go about your daily life, oblivious to your natural environment. Take some time to be mindful of what’s happening around you.


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Keep learning

Me ako tonu

There’s always something new to learn and discover when you interact with nature:


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Be active

Me kori tonu

Getting outside exposure and exercising is good for your overall health and wellbeing, plus it strengthens you connection with nature:


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