Almost three quarters of adults in Northern Ireland say that being close to nature improves their mood – Mental Health Awareness Week launch survey

  • Almost three quarters (74 per cent) of adults in Northern Ireland say that being close to nature improves their mood
  • Six in ten (61 per cent) adults in Northern Ireland say being in nature has led them to experience positive emotions such as calm, wonder and joy
  • Half of adults in Northern Ireland (50 per cent) said being close to nature helps them cope with stress.
  • Almost half of adults in Northern Ireland (48 per cent) say being close to nature makes them less worried or anxious.
  • One in ten adults in Northern Ireland (10 per cent) found it difficult to access nature when they wanted to.
  • Just over one in ten adults in Northern Ireland (11 per cent) spent one hour or less in nature per week

Almost three quarters of adults in Northern Ireland (74 per cent) said being close to nature improves their mood according to a new survey into the effects of nature on mental health.

The survey published by the Mental Health Foundation found powerful evidence of the positive impact that engaging with nature can have on positive mental health.

Six in ten adults in Northern Ireland (61 per cent) said that being close to nature made them feel positive emotions such as joy, calm and wonder.

Half of adults in Northern Ireland (50 per cent) said being close to nature helps them cope with stress. Similarly, almost half (48 per cent) said it made them feel less worried and anxious.

However, the survey also found that there were some key barriers to people being able to access nature in the way they would like.

Many people indicated they struggled to get enough time in nature with one in ten adults (10 per cent) saying they found it fairly or very difficult to access nature when they wanted.

The You Gov survey[1]  has been published to mark the start of Mental Health Awareness Week – which this year has the theme of Nature.

The week has been hosted and run by the Mental Health Foundation for the last 21 years.

Lee Knifton, Director of Mental Health Foundation Scotland and Northern Ireland, said: “Nature can be a powerful ally in protecting our mental health, preventing distress and ensuring good mental wellbeing.

“During the pandemic, millions of us discovered nature’s power to relieve stress, worry, anxiety and restore us with positive emotions, such as joy.

“While nature won’t solve all our problems – prioritising time in nature can really help support good mental health. However, the most important thing is the quality of our experience, and feeling like we connect with nature by trying to notice its beauty and absorb its sights, sounds and scents.

“We also need to go beyond what we individuals can do, and engage Government, local councils and others in bringing nature to the centre of all our lives.”

The survey looked at the barriers that existed to people being able to improve their mental health through access to nature.

More than four in ten (42 per cent) people said that they were not connecting or feeling a close engagement with nature often enough to help their mental health and wanted to do so more often.

The survey also found that ‘in normal times’ before the pandemic, 11 percent of adults in Northern Ireland spent one hour or less per week in nature – which is less than the two hours a week research has suggested is the amount that significantly boosts health and wellbeing.

Lee added: “Nature is not a luxury and everyone needs to access and experience its benefits to their mental health.

“One of the biggest concerns our study revealed was that many people identified safety as an issue that prevented them from accessing nature. A significant number also felt they weren’t getting the time they needed to connect with nature in a way that was helpful.

“That is why the Mental Health Foundation is recommending Government prioritise support for the mental health benefits of nature in public policy and employ specific measurements around connection with nature as evidence of impact.

“At a local level we are asking for councils to prioritise nature by providing more opportunities to experience nature in the places where people live, study and work, increasing access to natural places where they can and making sure areas are clean and safe. We also want councils to make accessible provision of nature and natural places and more trees and planting in neighbourhoods a key part of planning.

“Nature is a simple but fundamental way we can support and improve the mental health of millions of people. It’s vital we make that link and put it at the heart of how we build our society.”

The Mental Health Foundation has been running the annual Mental Health Awareness Week for 21 years.  This year people are encouraged to get involved by sharing their stories, pics and films on social media #ConnectWithNature #MentalHealthAwarenessWeek.  More information at www.mentalhealth.org.uk 

ENDS

For further information and interview requests please contact Claire Fleming at Mental Health Foundation Scotland on email [email protected] or phone 07511 076 870

Notes to editors

[1] All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 4274 UK adults with 118 in Northern Ireland. Fieldwork was undertaken between 6th - 8th April 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Top tips on how to engage with nature in a way that helps your mental health: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/campaigns/mental-health-awareness-week/tips

UK-wide stats

  • Seven in ten (70 per cent) UK adults say that being close to nature improves their mood
  • More than six in ten (65 per cent) UK adults say being in nature has led them to experience positive emotions such as calm, wonder and joy
  • Almost half of UK adults (49 per cent) said being close to nature helps them cope with stress.
  • More than four in ten (44 per cent) say being close to nature makes them less worried or anxious.
  • Just over one in ten adults (11 per cent) found it fairly or very difficult to access nature when they wanted to.
  • Just over one in ten UK adults (12 per cent) spent one hour or less in nature per week

About the Mental Health Foundation 

  • Our vision is of good mental health for all.
  • The Mental Health Foundation works 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.
  • The Foundation is the home of Mental Health Awareness Week.
  • www.mentalhealth.org.uk