Prescribing contact time with nature is beneficial to everyone, a new study reveals.
The wildlife trust wanted to see the impact their outdoors volunteering programmes were having.
Researchers at Leeds Beckett University analysed the social value of these programmes, looking at how they help people experiencing problems such as anxiety, stress or mild depression.
The report draws on the conclusions of three years research which found that people participating in both sorts of outdoor nature conservation activities felt significantly better, both emotionally and physically, as a result. They needed, for example, fewer visits to GPs or felt more able to get back into work.
Wildlife Trusts nature and wellbeing manager Dom Higgins said: "Evidence shows that nature volunteering or taking part in a more specialised health and nature project really works. People who have low levels of wellbeing feel healthier and happier when they’re connected to wildlife and wild places.
“We want to see the concept of nature on prescription becoming a core part of the National Health Service (NHS) mental wellbeing programmes. This new report shows the enormous value of a natural health service. It’s also important to have more investment in Wildlife Trust outdoor volunteering which has been proven to improve mental, physical and social wellbeing.
“In addition, we need many more wild, natural places near to where people live and work – that way, green prescribing can be rolled-out everywhere. This would help the NHS save money – as well as help nature to recover.”
The report also looked at the social return of investment of these programmes. It found that for every £1 of investment in regular nature volunteering projects which play a part in creating a healthy lifestyle by tackling problems like physical inactivity or loneliness, there is an £8.50 social return.
Furthermore, for every £1 invested in specialised health or social needs projects which connect people to nature and cost more to run, there is a £6.88 social return.
Dr Amir Khan, GP and Health Ambassador for The Wildlife Trusts said: “There is a clear need to invest in nature-based services so that more people can benefit. If more people could access nature programmes I believe that we would see a knock-on effect in our GP surgeries, with fewer people attending for help with preventable or social problems arising from being cut off from others, not getting active or having a purpose.”