New study points to positive impact of nature on mental wellbeing
A new report published on 4th October has tested the commonly held theory that the natural environment is good for people's mental wellbeing. Called 'Monitoring of Engagement with the Natural Environment (MENE): Wellbeing and the natural environment', the report consists of data from over 3,500 interviews conducted between May 2012-Feb 2013.
Survey participants were asked a series of questions about how and when they used the natural environment alongside standard questions around life satisfaction, happiness, and anxiety. Respondents who were regular users of the outdoors were far more likely to give positive assessments of their mental wellbeing.
Four key questions were asked by MENE, which the Office of National Statistics has already used to assess levels of mental wellbeing amongst the UK's adult population:
· Life satisfaction: Overall, how satisfied are you with life nowadays?
· Worthwhile: Overall, to what extent do you feel that the things you do in your life are worthwhile?
· Happiness: Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?
· Anxiety: Overall, how anxious did you feel yesterday?
On a scale from 0 ('not at all') to 10 ('completely'), the highest levels of happiness were recorded by people who typically visit the outdoors more than once a week (mean score of 7.7) and people who take part in gardening (7.6). People who strongly agreed that they "are glad natural places existed, even if they didn't visit them" also fell within this group recording high levels of happiness (7.7). Happiness levels are also found to be closely correlated with part time workers, 'empty nesters' (55+ and no children at home) and retired people with no disabilities. In terms of people most likely to rate their life activities as "worthwhile", the highest scores came from people who walk or cycle whenever possible, are members of an environmental organisation, and who buy seasonal or locally grown food (mean score of 8.5). Those who take part in gardening, watching wildlife and doing unpaid voluntary work also rate their activities as highly worthwhile (8.4), as do people who visit the outdoors every day (8.2). Disability, gender, lifestage and housing tenure were useful filters in showing that women in employment, living in an owned/mortgaged house, are most likely to rate their life activities as worthwhile.
Dave Stone, Deputy Chief Scientist at Natural England, said: "This wide-ranging survey adds to the growing body of evidence showing that the natural environment has a significant role to play in improving our mental wellbeing. A survey of this scale, demonstrating such a striking profile of the mental wellbeing of those using the outdoors on a regular basis, is worth taking account of." Visit 'MENE: Wellbeing and the natural environment' (http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/6710511932538880?category=47018) to read more.