Nature for health and recreation

We are only just beginning to understand the effect of nature on human health. One in six of the UK population suffers from depression, anxiety, stress, phobias, suicidal impulses, obsessive compulsive disorders and panic attacks. This costs the National Health Service £12.5 billion, the economy £23.1 billion in lost output, and £41.8 billion in the human costs of reduced quality of life and loss of life.

Studies show that symptoms of all these disorders are alleviated with time spent in nature. Even the sight of nature has curative effects. Health Services have found that hospital patients need fewer painkillers after surgery and recover much faster if they have views of nature from their bed.

We need wild spaces - not just parks and gardens, but areas of our countryside that are teeming with wildlife. This human connection with dynamic, wild places is something that stems from the most primal part of our brain, when we evolved as hunter-gatherers on the savannas of Africa. 


Further information:

Bird, W. ‘Natural Thinking – investigating the links between the natural environment, biodiversity and mental health’. A report for the RSPB. (June 2007)

Chen, H., et al. ‘Living near major roads and the incidence of dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and multiple sclerosis: a population-based cohort study’. The Lancet, vol 389, no. 10070, pp. 718-726. (18 February 2017)

Kaplan, S. ‘The restorative effects of nature – toward an integrative framework.’ Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol 15, pp. 169-182. (1995)

Orians, G.H. and Heerwagen, J.H. ‘Evolved responses to landscapes’. In: Barkow, J.H., Cosmides, L., and Tooby, J. (eds) The Adapted Mind Evolutionary Psychology and the Generation of Culture, pp. 555-579. (Oxford University Press, 1993)

Pyle, RM. ‘The extinction of experience’. Horticulture, vol 56, pp. 64-67 (1978)

Ulrich, R.S. ‘Aesthetic and affective response to natural environment’. In: Altman, I., and Wohlwill, J.F (eds) Behaviour and the Natural Environment, pp. 85-125. (Plenum, New York, 1983)

Ulrich, R., et al. ‘Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments’. Journal of Environmental Psychology, vol. 11, pp. 201-230. (1991)

‘Estimating local mortality burdens associated with particulate air pollution’. Public Health England report. (9 April 2014)