PRESCRIBING nature to people with low levels of mental wellbeing can be effective in improving health, a new report has shown.

Researchers at Leeds Beckett University analysed the Wildlife Trusts’ nature conservation projects which offer outdoor volunteering opportunities.

The report draws on the conclusions of three years research and includes Tees Valley Wildlife Trust's Inclusive Volunteering Project, which aims to support people experiencing problems such as anxiety, stress or mild depression.

The Teesside project aims to improve people’s wellbeing through connecting with their local environment through volunteering and conservation.

In the new report, published October 10, researchers found people struggling with mental health who were participating outdoors in nature activities felt significantly better, both emotionally and physically, and, in cases, needed fewer visits to GPs or felt more able to get back into work.

Dom Higgins, Nature and Wellbeing Manager, at The Wildlife Trusts said: “Evidence shows that nature volunteering or taking part in a more specialised health and nature project really works. People who have low levels of wellbeing feel healthier and happier when they’re connected to wildlife and wild places.

“We want to see the concept of nature on prescription becoming a core part of the National Health Service (NHS) mental wellbeing programmes. This new report shows the enormous value of a natural health service. 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.”

Anne-Marie Bagnall, Professor of Health & Wellbeing Evidence at Leeds Beckett University added: "We can say with confidence that, based on evidence, these programmes can be effective in both maintaining good wellbeing and tackling poor wellbeing arising from social issues such as loneliness, inactivity and poor mental health."