Countryside is good for you - study

SPENDING time in the countryside is better for your brain than spending time in the city, says a study.

Researchers found time spent in rural and coastal locations is more psychologically beneficial to individuals than time spent in urban green spaces,

Their findings having been published in the journal Environment & Behavior.

Rsearchers from the universities of Surrey, Exeter, Plymouth and Plymouth Marine Laboratory worked with Natural England to examine the experiences of over 4,500 people.

It is believed to be the first time the impact of different environmental settings have been measured on psychological wellbeing.

People who visited rural and coastal locations reported greater psychological contentment than those who spent time in urban green spaces, such as city gardens and parks.

It was also found that visits to natural areas of protected or designated status i.e. national parks, also resulted in improved mental wellbeing.

Researchers found these visits to nature – especially those to protected sites and to coastal and rural green settings – were associated with both greater feelings of relaxation and refreshment.

It was discovered that visits longer than 30 minutes were associated with a better connection and subsequently had greater psychological benefits.

Socio-economic status was also found not to be a factor in enjoyment of nature.

Researchers said this demonstrated the importance of providing free or affordable entrance to sites.

This would help prevent socio-economic inequality in accessing nature, they said.

Lead author Kayleigh Wyles said: "“We’ve demonstrated for some time that nature can be beneficial to us, but we’re still exploring how and why.

"Here we have found that our mental wellbeing and our emotional bond with nature may differ depending on the type and quality of an environment we visit.

"These findings are important as they not only help unpick the mechanisms behind these psychological benefits, but they can also help to prioritise the protection of these environments and emphasise why accessibility to nature is so important."

Mel Austen, head of the sea and society science area at Plymouth Marine Laboratory said it was surprising to learn that the extent of protection of marine environments also affected the extent of mental health benefits that people gained from their interactions with the sea.

Prof Austen said: "People’s health is likely to become an increasingly important aspect to consider as we manage our coasts and waters for the benefit of all users."

Numerous studies have reported a reduction of stress levels in participants and an increase in overall wellbeing in those spending time in nature.

But this is the first study of its kind which shows that different types of natural environments have more of an impact on psychological wellbeing than others.


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