New Study Suggests 'Nature Prescriptions' Improve Both Physical And Mental Health

April 12, 2023

Nature prescriptions are gaining popularity as a form of social prescribing in support of sustainable health care.

Researchers from UNSW Sydney analyzed 28 studies that tested nature prescriptions and found that these free and available prescriptions provided both physical and mental health benefits.

nature prescriptions

The research was led by Professor Xiaoqi Feng from UNSW Medicine & Health and Professor Thomas Astell-Burt from the University of Wollongong.

"The evidence shows that nature prescriptions can help to restore and build capacities for better physical and mental health. What we need now is to work out how to make nature prescriptions happen in a sustained way for those people with high potential to benefit, but who currently spend little time in nature," said Prof. Feng.

Compared with control conditions, nature prescription programs resulted in a greater reduction in systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure. Nature prescriptions also had a moderate to large effect on depression and anxiety scores.

Research shows that contact with nature also reduces harms, including those from poor air quality, heatwaves, and chronic stress, while encouraging healthy behaviors such as socializing and physical activity. This can help to prevent issues including loneliness, depression and cardiovascular disease.

"This study is built upon a long-term program of research that we are doing, where we show contact with nature – and trees especially – is really good for strengthening mental and physical health across our lives," said Prof. Feng.

Although Canada already has a national nature prescription program, Feng says more research is needed to implement it in Australia.

"So how long should the nature prescription be for? What should be in the prescription? How should we deliver it, and by whom? These questions don't have firm answers yet," said Prof. Feng.

"If we want nature prescriptions to become a national scheme, we really need to provide the evidence."

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