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David Baxter

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Ecotherapy claimed to reduce Depression symptoms

Leading British mental health charity Mind has released a groundbreaking report based on two studies conducted by the University of Essex which sets a new green agenda for mental health. With a mass of growing evidence, Mind calls for ecotherapy to be recognized as a clinically-valid frontline treatment for mental health problems.

Ecotherapy involves getting outdoors and getting active in a green environment as a way of boosting mental wellbeing. Whether it's taking regular walks in the park, flying a kite or participating in a gardening therapy project, green exercise is proven to have huge benefits for mental health. The prescription of care farms as a treatment for mental distress has been highly successful on the continent but the UK is lagging far behind Europe - there are only 43 care farms in the UK, none of which are directed at mental health, compared to 600 in the Netherlands and 400 in Norway.

Mind's new report, Ecotherapy: the green agenda, presents the findings of the first ever research looking at how green exercise specifically affects people with mental health problems. A walk in a country park was compared with a walk in an indoor shopping center. The results are startling:

  • 71 per cent reported decreased levels of depression after the green walk
  • 22 per cent felt their depression increased after walking through an indoor shopping center and only 45 per cent experienced a decrease in depression
  • 71 per cent said they felt less tense after the green walk
  • 50 per cent said their feelings of tension had increased after the shopping center walk
  • 90 per cent had increased self-esteem after the country walk
  • 44 per cent said their self-esteem decreased after window shopping in the shopping center.
The study also found that:

  • 90 per cent said it was the combination of nature and exercise that had the greatest effect on them
  • 94 per cent said that green activities had benefited their mental health, lifting depression.
Releasing the report, Mind's Chief Executive Paul Farmer said: "Mind sees ecotherapy as an important part of the future for mental health. It's a credible, clinically-valid treatment option and needs to be prescribed by GPs, especially when for many people access to treatments other than antidepressants is extremely limited. We're not saying that ecotherapy can replace drugs but that the debate needs to be broadened."

"Hundreds of people have benefited from the green projects run by our local Mind associations but if prescribing ecotherapy was part of mainstream practice it could potentially help the millions of people across the country who are affected by mental distress."

Source: Peacock J, Hine R, Pretty J. Ecotherapy: the green agenda for mental health. Mind 2007.
[Summary ( 6 pages: 220KB :acrobat: ) | Full report ( 36 pages :940KB :acrobat: )]
 

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