Impact of woodlands on mental health
News release from NETSCC, Public Health Research
26 April 2012
A newly funded project by the NIHR PHR programme is investigating how effective the Forestry Commission Scotland's Woods In and Around Towns (WIAT) programme is at improving psychological wellbeing in deprived communities.
Poor mental health is a major public health problem. It is estimated that 27 per cent of the EU adult population, around 83 million people, experienced poor mental health in the past year.
Lead researcher Catharine Ward Thompson of the University of Edinburgh commented; "To find out whether better physical environments can help with this public health problem, we need to explore whether changing the environments in which people live has an impact on their health. In particular, we would like to find out if it can help poorer communities, who often face particularly high levels of stress and mental health problems."
The WIAT programme has worked with deprived communities since 2005 to improve the quality of life of people living and working in Scotland's towns and cities. It has been regenerating urban woodlands and encouraging more people to access their local outdoor environments.
The project is working with six different communities in Scotland's central belt and will be the first major research programme into whether WIAT's work results in a positive change in the population's mental well-being and helps reduce stress levels.
To show if changes in the communities' mental health is due to the forestry scheme, the study will work with three deprived communities which experience change in their local woodlands and three communities where there is no such change, at least during the time of the study.
Catherine Ward Thompson adds; "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to study how changes to natural environments like woodlands, close to where people live, can make a difference to their lives, and their mental health in particular. Thanks to a really good working relationship with Forestry Commission Scotland, we can produce evidence of the highest standards to test the effectiveness and value of projects like WIAT for people who live in stressful circumstances because of poverty."
To view the project page click here