Can biodiversity boost mental health?

Researchers found greater wellbeing was associated with more diversity

Biodiversity isn’t just good for the ecosystem. It may also be good for our mental health. In a recent study published in Scientific Reports, researchers found that spending time in places with a diverse range of natural features and species is associated with stronger improvements in our mental wellbeing compared to places with less diversity.

The citizen-science study used a smartphone application called Urban Mind to collect real-time reports on mental wellbeing and natural diversity from nearly 2000 participants. Researchers found that environments with a larger number of natural features, such as trees, birds, plants and waterways, were associated with greater mental wellbeing than environments with fewer features, and that these benefits can last for up to eight hours.

The results suggest a new way to think about urban parks, said lead author Ryan Hammoud, research assistant at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience at King’s College London. “In practice, this means moving away from heavily curated monocultural pockets and parks of mown grass, which are typically associated with low biodiversity, towards spaces which mirror the biodiversity of natural ecosystems,” he said. “By showing how natural diversity boosts our mental wellbeing, we provide a compelling basis for how to create greener and healthier urban spaces.”

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Header Image: A path winds through the forest at Warner Parks in Nashville, Tennessee. Credit: Derek Bruff