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Can spending time outdoors improve our mental health?

A study by a collaboration led by Swansea University Medical School will investigate whether spending time in our parks and beaches can have a positive effect on our long-term well-being and mental health.

Swansea University will look at how spending time outdoors could improve our mental health. Credit: PA

According to the University; one in four people experience a mental health condition such as anxiety and depression at some time in their lives and mental health problems cost the UK economy over £100bn a year.

1 in 4
1 in 4 people experience a mental health condition i.e. depression or anxiety in their lives.

The National Institute of Health Research is investing in a collaboration to explore whether spending time in our blue and green spaces can help our mental health.

Experts from Swansea University, the University of Exeter, Cardiff University and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, will receive funding to enable researchers to take a large-scale population approach, considering the majority of Wales’ environment and population, and changes over time.

The team of academics will work with partners from Natural Resources Wales, Keep Wales Tidy, Sports Wales, City and County of Swansea, and Welsh Government.

The team will consider how accessibility of different types of green and blue spaces relate to mental health and wellbeing benefits for different people.

We will test whether people who more frequently visit green and blue spaces report better wellbeing.

We will be able to explore, for example, if people report better wellbeing in greener areas because they visit green and blue spaces more often and engage in more physical activity compared to those living in less green areas.

– Dr Sarah Rodgers, Associate Professor at Swansea University Medical School

Researchers will look at data for 1.7 million people in Wales to explore how people change their use of health services, such as their general practitioner, as their local environment changes.