Nearby nature and green spaces could benefit the mental health of Londoners

30th Jan 2023

New research we have released today highlights the opportunities that London’s nature and green spaces could offer to improve the mental health of all those living in the capital.

  • there are opportunities across London but people don't always know about them even or are even used by those who could benefit
  • research highlights activities such as community gardening, walking and joining social groups can reduce the strain on overstretched NHS services
  • barriers exist that stop some people from using any nearby opportunities

With support from the Mayor of London’s office, our research explains how community gardening, walking, and social groups can help with Londoner's mental health while reducing the strain on over-stretched NHS services.

Based on four months of research and engagement with a wide range of Londoners, the report suggests ways to expand green 'social prescribing' in London and identifies why some are missing out on what’s available.

Social prescribing offers health and social care professionals the option of referring people to community-based activities they are most likely to enjoy. Green social prescribing links individuals with nature-based activities in the community.

Such activities have repeatedly shown their potential to improve mental health and reduce feelings of anxiety and depression. As highlighted in our previous research with the World Wildlife Fund:

“There is a fascinating link - between access to green space, such as fields, forests, parks and gardens, and a reduced risk of mental health problems, improved mood, and increased life satisfaction.” (Thriving with Nature)

Supporting and expanding  green social prescribing  to address mental health  inequalities in London report cover (2023)

While London is a busy urban city, there are a surprising number of green spaces and ‘green opportunities’. The report suggests prescribing people to community activities (gardening, walking, conservation and more, could prevent or improve mental and physical health problems, reducing strain on overstretched NHS services.

The report highlights some wonderful examples, including the Ital Community Garden run by Coco Collective. Since 2020 they have secured funding from Lewisham Council to deliver gardening on social prescription for people with mild to moderate mental health needs for two days each week. They also have regular community programming, which is open to all.

Another example includes our collaboration with the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust to run the Blue Prescribing Project, which invites participants to attend a six-week course at the London Wetland Centre, which helps build connections with nature.

Dr Ben Plimpton, author of the report and Project Manager at the Mental Health Foundation, said:

“The expansion of green social prescribing in London offers a unique opportunity to improve the mental health of all residents and has the potential to make the biggest difference for Londoners at greatest risk of poor mental health.

Not all of us live near a forest, but most have access to a park, river, stream or a shared or friend’s garden. In cities and urban areas, there are often community gardens, initiatives for growing or gardening, social groups and more. There’s often lots going on nearby that could benefit you.”

Dr Tom Coffey OBE, Mayoral Health Advisor, said:

“Londoners face huge challenges and pressures, and the Mayor and I are doing all we can to support those who are at risk of poor mental health as we build a fairer and better London for all.

Green social prescribing can make a significant difference to help improve mental and physical health, and this study shows the potential of our capital’s nature and green spaces to support Londoners, tackle inequalities and reduce the pressure on our NHS.”


Read the report

Our report, 'Supporting and expanding green social prescribing to address mental health inequalities in London', which highlights the barriers to getting to green spaces in London and suggests recommendations on expanding the offer of green spaces.
Read the report

Notes to editors

For further information and interview requests, please [email protected] our press inbox.

About the Mental Health Foundation

  • the Mental Health Foundation has been the home of Mental Health Awareness Week since 2001
  • our vision is for good mental health for all
  • we work to prevent mental health problems
  • we drive change towards a mentally healthy society for all and support communities, families and individuals to lead mentally healthy lives with a particular focus on those at greatest risk of poor mental health
  • we are committed to promoting an anti-racist, inclusive community, where we can all be ourselves
  • we rely on voluntary donations to provide evidence-based advice and carry out vital work to prevent poor mental health

Related content

Nature and mental health

Being in nature is good for your mental health. It can reduce stress and lift your mood.

Thriving with Nature

A guide to help everyone make the most of the UK's natural spaces for our mental health and well-being.

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