Neighborhoods with Nature Tied to Better Mental Health

A new study from the U.K. finds that living in a neighborhood with more birds, shrubs, and trees may help to reduce the risk of depression, anxiety, and stress.

Researchers studied hundreds of people and found that being able to see birds, shrubs, and trees around the home, whether people lived in urban or more leafy suburban neighborhoods.

University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology, and the University of Queensland study involved a survey of mental health in over 270 people from different ages, incomes, and ethnicities.

Researchers also found that those who spent less time out of doors than usual in the previous week were more likely to report they were anxious or depressed.

After conducting extensive surveys of the number of birds in the morning and afternoon of three communities, the study found that lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress were associated with the number of birds people could see in the afternoon.

Researchers studied afternoon bird numbers — which tend to be lower than birds generally seen in the morning — because are more in keeping with the number of birds that people are likely to see in their neighborhood on a daily basis.

In the study, common types of birds including blackbirds, robins, blue tits, and crows were seen. However, the study did not find a relationship between the species of birds and mental health, but rather the number of birds they could see from their windows, in the garden, or in their neighborhood.

Previous studies have found that the ability of most people to identify different species is low, suggesting that for most people it is interacting with birds, not just specific birds, that provides well-being.

University of Exeter research fellow Dr. Daniel Cox, who led the study, said, “This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being. Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.”

The positive association between birds, shrubs, and trees and better mental health applied, even after controlling for variation in neighborhood deprivation, household income, age, and a wide range of other socio-demographic factors.

The current study expands an earlier which found that watching birds makes people feel relaxed and connected to nature.

Source: University of Exeter

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