Green Health: Benefits of Green Health

The slideshow below highlights the benefits of green health based activities to improve health and wellbeing.

There is growing evidence which describes the many benefits of being outdoors in contact with nature.

It not only motivates us to take more regular physical activity but also enables us to connect with and care about our local greenspaces and communities, therefore promoting social contact and intergenerational connections, tackling social isolation, and promoting sustainability.

The natural environment also has restorative qualities and can help reduce stress, improve mood, and enhance recovery.

Please see links below to some key resources and studies that may be of interest, these are just examples, this list is not exhaustive:

Green Health Partnerships in Scotland – evaluation of the first three years

Green Health Partnerships are the centerpiece of the Our Natural Health Service programme which aims to encourage better use of Scotland’s natural environment as a resource to improve health and wellbeing. This report published in 2022 shows the breadth of GHP activity and the extent to which they collectively achieved their five key aims during the first three years of operation (2018 – 2021).

Five Ways to Wellbeing

The New Economics Foundation review of evidence suggests that building the Five Ways to Wellbeing into our daily routines can improve wellbeing and potentially reduce the number of people who develop mental health disorders. 

Although not specific to nature based activity the Five Ways to Wellbeing concept lends itself greatly to nature based activity by encouraging people to connect, be physically active, take notice, keep learning and give.

Growing the Impact of Nature

Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland (the ALLIANCE) commissioned a report to explore key issues underpinning the extent to which engagement with nature based health activities can, now and in the future, make a contribution to post Covid recovery strategies for mental and physical health.

In 2012 the NHS Greenspace Demonstration Project was established, looking at how improvements to outdoor spaces around existing and new hospitals and health centres could be delivered in practice and to assess the benefits of this investment for health and wellbeing, biodiversity and climate change.

Nature Prescriptions Report 

RSPB Scotland commissioned an urban study of the use of nature prescriptions to support the wellbeing of people and nature.   Outcomes demonstrated that nature prescriptions were a low cost intervention to support a range of physical and mental health conditions in the Primary Care setting.

Green Space Interventions

This review analysis the growing strain on mental health services, and greenspace interventions that could be a promising addition to current health & social care provisions. Despite progress in greenspace research, the underlying mechanisms and processes of greenspace interventions are still unclear. Without knowing these it is impossible to understand why programmes work and how best to replicate them. This review uses realist methodology to synthesise the international evidence for greenspace interventions for mental health in both clinical and non-clinical populations.

Thriving with Nature

The Mental Health Foundation and the World Wildlife Fund created this resource which includes not only considers the reasons why spending time outdoors in nature can improve or mental wellbeing but is also a practical resource for people to use across the seasons.

Associations between Nature Exposure and Health

The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a review of evidence between nature exposure and health from the last 10 years. Highlighting the evidence available, limitations and recommendations for future study design.

Nature-based Interventions

Natural England commissioned research to examine the benefits, common themes and outcomes of three green care approaches, including the use of common language and examining the scale of interventions and commissioning routes.  Evidence of effectiveness was included in a literature review.

British Medical Journal

A systemic review on the positive impacts of nature on children’s health, including physical, mental and social wellbeing. Focusing on how accessibility, exposure and engagement with nature affects the mental health of children and teenagers.

Enjoying the Outdoors

This research provides an understanding of outdoor visit behaviour and engagement with nature in Scotland during Coronavirus. Three waves of online surveying have been undertaken. Including online interviews with a representative sample of adults in Scotland undertaken during the first wave, and the second wave of research plus additional interviews with members of the minority ethnic (ME) population in the second wave. This report presents the findings from a further, third wave undertaken a year later.

ONHS – Gathering the views of key individuals with an operational or strategic role in the GHP Intervention

Following the establishment of four Green Health Partnerships (GHPs) during 2018, a series of research interviews were undertaken with some of the individuals involved at an operational and strategic level to explore their experience of the first year of delivery and their thoughts on longer-term mainstreaming of the GHP approach.

Good Mental Health

Mental Health Foundation work towards good mental health for all; believing prevention is better than cure. Focused on protecting people’s mental health. Their work involves research and practical projects to identify what’s most helpful, public information that empowers people to look after their mental health and influencing work to move policies in the right direction.

Green Health: Health Inequalities

“Public Health Scotland define health inequalities as the avoidable and unjust differences in people’s health across the population. Some variations in health may be naturally occurring and unavoidable. However, health inequalities are defined as such when they affect certain groups in a way that is unfair and avoidable.”

Place and Wellbeing Outcomes – Improvement Services

The places where we live and work have an impact on our health, in areas where there are greater levels of greenspace there are narrower differences in health between those on low and high incomes.  The Place and Wellbeing outcomes developed by the improvement service provide a consistent and comprehensive focus for where place impacts on the wellbeing of people and planet.    

The importance and value placed on access to greenspace during the COVID pandemic was increased but this was not across all community groups as for many they had no access to greenspace or a garden to enjoy when restrictions were greatest. 

Nature Scot Commissioned 3 reports spanning short time periods  from May 2020 when the stay at home message was central to managing the pandemic and Sept 2021 when most remaining restrictions had finally eased.

Measuring Participation NatureScot

Public Health Scotland have published a report on the use of greenspace during Covid-19. Mitigation measures introduced to reduce transmission of COVID-19 resulted in changes in the use of local greenspaces. This briefing provides an overview of findings from surveys carried out by NatureScot, YouGov/University of Glasgow, and Public Health Scotland  looking at visits to and use of greenspace during the pandemic.

COVID-19 and Greenspace use – Survey findings summary

This report was produced by the Data and Evidence subgroup of the Environment and Spaces for Public Health Partnership Group, previously the Social and System Recovery Environment and Spaces Group. The group, which is hosted by Public Health Scotland (PHS), was established to bring together evidence on how our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected our environment and spaces and how people interact within these, articulate how this might impact people’s health and wellbeing, and use this to inform national and local responses to policy and practice.

Housing tenure – how does it affect access to and use of, private and public greenspace?

Public Health Scotland (PHS) has published a report looking at whether there was different access to, and use of, private and public greenspace during the COVID-19 pandemic in relation to housing tenure. The report has been published on behalf of the Environment and Spaces for Public Health Partnership Group.

Green Health Partnerships

As part of the Our Natural Health Service Programme the following studies detail outcomes from across the programme of work in Lanarkshire, Highland, Dundee and North Ayrshire.