The Wildlife Trusts is calling for green prescribing to become widespread.
A new report published by The Wildlife Trusts and Leeds Beckett University proves that taking part in nature programmes helps to improve people’s health and wellbeing and that prescribing contact with nature is excellent value for money.
Drawing on three years of research into Wildlife Trusts projects, the report reveals that prescribing contact with nature to people with low levels of mental wellbeing offers a considerable social return, through improvements to their health and wellbeing.
The report analysed the social value of The Wildlife Trusts’ outdoor volunteering opportunities that support people experiencing problems such as anxiety, stress or mild depression. It was found that for every £1 invested in nature volunteering projects, which encourage a healthy lifestyle by tackling problems like physical inactivity or loneliness, there is an £8.50 social return. For every £1 invested in specialised health and social needs projects, which cost more to run, there is a £6.88 social return.
Dom Higgins, nature and wellbeing manager at The Wildlife Trusts, says: “Evidence shows that nature volunteering or taking part in a more specialised health and nature project really works. We want to see the concept of nature on prescription becoming a core part of the NHS mental wellbeing programmes.
“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.”
This research demonstrates the value of projects such as Lancashire Wildlife Trust’s MyPlace programme, which will be celebrating its 1000th NHS participant with a special event on World Mental Health Day, Thursday 10 October. MyPlace works in green spaces, supporting young people and adults in reducing stress, anxiety and many low-level mental health conditions.
For MyPlace volunteer Simon, the programme was life-changing and he now shares his positive experiences with others in the project: “Before coming to MyPlace, I would close myself off from the world. They offered me encouragement, support and how to expand my social skills. MyPlace has made my transition back into life far easier and helped my confidence and self-esteem.”
For more information about The Wildlife Trusts’ wellbeing programmes, visit their website.
Words by Riana Dixon