The study, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology is the first of its kind to examine the role of nature in human health.
The researchers monitored people’s relationship to nature through green spaces, nature visits and their personal psychological engagement to the natural world.
“Our results suggest that physically and psychologically reconnecting with nature can be beneficial for human health and wellbeing, and at the same time encourages individuals to act in ways which protect the health of the planet,” said lead author Leanne Martin.
The study also found that individuals who regularly visited nature or felt connected to nature were more likely to adopt sustainable behaviours, such as recycling and conversation activities.
A 2018 survey from the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand found a similar connection between time in nature and mental health. 95% of respondents in the survey said that spending time in nature during the week made them feel good.
The UK researchers say the findings give “vital new insights” around the importance of direct contact with nature when it comes to physical and mental health. “We look forward to using the research as we work with our many partners to support more people from all walks of life to benefit from thriving nature.”