Published on 1st January 2018


Exposure to birdsong, trees and the sky can boost mental well-being in people living in urban areas, according to recent research published in BioScience.1

Researchers from Kings College London used a smartphone app called Urban Mind to monitor exposure to natural features of the built environment and associated changes in mental well-being in 108 participants for a period of one week. Between them, the participants completed over 3,000 assessments, answering questions about their current environment and momentary mental well-being. GPS-based geotagging was used to monitor their exact location throughout the trial.

The team found that being outdoors, seeing the sky and trees, and hearing birdsong were associated with higher levels of mental well-being, and that the beneficial effects were particularly evident in people with higher levels of impulsivity who were at greater risk of mental health issues. The associations were still evident several hours after exposure, indicating time-lasting benefits.

Dr Andrea Mechelli from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King’s College London, said: “These findings suggest that short-term exposure to nature has a measurable beneficial impact on mental well-being.

“The interaction of this effect with trait impulsivity is intriguing, as it suggests that nature could be especially beneficial to those individuals who are at risk of poor mental health.

“From a clinical perspective, we hope this line of research will lead to the development of low-cost scalable interventions aimed at promoting mental health in urban populations.”

The ‘great outdoors’ is so-called for a reason, and has many benefits besides mental well-being. In the Winter 2017/18 issue of Optimum Nutrition, Catherine Morgan writes that being outside can have learning and developmental benefits for our children, too.  To read the full article, access our digital magazine library.


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