A scoping study on the link between exposure to or interaction with the natural environment and mental health outcomes
May 21, 2019
This scoping review seeks to address the question of whether there is an association between exposure to the natural environment and mental health. The search was limited to existing reviews only. While no definitive conclusions can be made, the study highlights that this is a growing field of interest and emerging evidence suggests a positive association between nature and impact on mental health.
RAND Europe has been commissioned by The VELUX Group to conduct a brief scoping study of recent academic literature regarding the impact that exposure to nature has on mental health.
The aim was to identify, analyse and synthesise available scientific literature related to the following research question: 'Is there an association between exposure to or interaction with the natural environment and mental health outcomes?' A scoping review of reviews was used.
Findings are categorised into four overarching themes: 1) the general population: positive impacts are mostly self-reported, and weighing this against the weak quantitative evidence, results were not strong enough to make conclusive statements; 2) those with an illness: there is a trend of improved mental health and wellbeing for patients receiving nature-related therapy, however the evidence base remains too weak to make definitive judgements; 3) children and adolescents: over half of the papers in one review identified positive relationships between nature and mental health; and 4) the impact of environment on mental health: in one systematic review focusing on the urban environment a positive association between nature and improved perceived restorative value was reported by the majority of included studies.
While the topic area is expanding, the evidence base is currently still in its infancy and therefore weak. Owing to the heterogeneity of the studies, it is not possible to amalgamate the findings into a definitive conclusion. However, there is emerging evidence suggestive of a positive association between nature and mental health.
Setting the scene
Discussion and conclusions
Detailed table of included studies