Beyond Blue to Green
- Category: Personal | Health | Human Development | Individual Quality of Life | Environmental | Environment
The report reviews existing Australian and international literature on the links between mental health and well-being and contact with nature.
Townsend, Mardie, and Weerasuriya, Rona. (2010). Beyond Blue to Green: The benefits of contact with nature for mental health and well-being. Melbourne, Australia: Beyond Blue Limited.
The researchers reviewed current Australian and international literature on the links between mental health and well-being and the availability of green spaces. Sources included relevant electronic databases, peer-reviewed journals and grey literature. The major focus of this review was on the links between parks or green open spaces and mental health, in particular, depression and anxiety. While the emphasis is on the most recent literature, older literature has been included when it was relevant.
The range of psychological benefits for people who visit green, open spaces is vast and includes improved mood, lower levels of anxiety, lower stress levels, lower levels of depression and increased physical activity. Participating in health-promoting group activities such as hiking, physical activities and gardening also has a range of benefits for health and well-being.
People who perceive their neighbourhoods as less green have a lower likelihood of good physical and mental health; those with less access to private or shared gardens experience higher levels of stress and are more likely to be overweight; and those living in areas with few green spaces have higher morbidity levels for a number of diseases, including anxiety and depression.
For children, research shows that close proximity to green spaces is clearly associated with reduced prevalence of depression, anxiety and other health problems. Many researchers believe that outdoor play has long-term benefits for physical, social, emotional and cognitive development and fosters a sense of identity, feelings of autonomy, psychological resilience and healthy behaviours. Additionally, children who experience high levels of contact with nature have higher levels of self-worth and higher cognitive function.
For young people with serious substance abuse issues and/or mental health disorders, horticulture therapy programs have a range of benefits including lower anxiety and depression levels, decreased illegal activity and drug use, and higher self-esteem. Being involved with nature in a detention setting increases self-pride, a sense of belonging, cooperation and social skills.
Older people are more likely to report a high or very high level of psychological distress than younger people. However, areas with natural landscaping, green neighbourhood meeting places, group-based nature activities such as walking, and shared gardens for the elderly can facilitate social contact, which has been shown to reduce the risk of developing chronic diseases such as depression and cardiovascular disease.
Benefit Statements / Outcomes
- 1.01 Extends life expectancy
- 1.03 Reduces heart disease and stroke
- 1.08 Contributes to mental health
- 1.09 Enhances well-being and QOL
- 1.10 Proven therapeutic tools
- 1.11 Reduce obesity
- 2.01 Holistic development of children and youth
- 2.02 Holistic development of adults
- 2.03 Lifelong learning & academic success
- 2.04 Provide spiritual meaning
- 3.01 Build self-esteem and positive self-image
- 3.02 Enhance life satisfaction
- 8.07 Greenspaces essential to overall good health & quality of life