Mental health problems are common with 1 in 6 adults reporting mental health disorders. In England alone, there are over 550,000 people with more severe mental health disorders. Along with substance misuse, mental health issues account for 21.3% of all diseases in England, with a social and economic cost of £105 billion per year.
Around 30% of people who have physical health issues (especially long term conditions) are likely to suffer from poor mental health, with anxiety and depression being common. This can exacerbate to cause debilitating problems such as chronic pain. Loneliness and lack of social interaction can be risk factors for poor mental and physical health and increase the risk of premature death by 30%.
Poor mental health can begin early in life with 50% all problems being in place by the age of 14, and rising to 75% by the time people are 24. This can increase significantly if people are in the poorest fifth of the population.
Childhood neglect results in young people more likely to experience mental health problems such as depression and ADHD. Young adults (aged 15-34) with a serious mental health problem is 5.1 times more likely to have 3+ medical conditions than the general population.
How nature can solve the problem
Mental health and well being: Reduces psychological stress, fatigue and depression. For young people with ADHD, being in nature helps to improve concentration and reduces the inequalities between those with the condition and those without.
Emotional development: Outdoor experiences can reduce issues of adverse social and emotional behaviour through social interaction, purposeful activities and the influences of quiet and calming surroundings.
Social development: Green gyms, care farms, volunteering are all activities that take place with other like minded people; encouraging supportive and nurturing friendships to develop.
Self-rated health: Health levels are higher in those people with a greater amount of good quality natural environment around the home.
Reducing costs of health care: Studies have shown that there is an estimated annual saving of £2.1 billion if everyone in England accesses green space. The Mind’s Ecomind programme was estimated to save over £7k per year in NHS costs, benefits reductions and increased tax contributions.
Physical health: People who spend time in the outdoors are more active and have greater motor fitness, including agility, balance and co-ordination.
Death rates: Living in greener environments or engaging with nature reduces mortality rates particularly in men, infants and lower socio-economic groups.
Learning and development: Outdoor skills education improves the ability to learn and concentrate, and promotes powers of creativity and observation.