With research suggesting that spending regular time in nature on a weekly basis is linked to better health and well-being, doctors have increasingly been prescribing time in nature, as part of ‘green prescriptions’ by the NHS, to their patients.
For example, islanders living in Shetland who are battling with depression and anxiety may be given ‘nature prescriptions’, with medical practitioners there recommending walks and activities which allow people to connect with the outdoors. Social prescriptions – prescribed non-medical treatments which have health benefits – are already being used across the NHS to tackle mental illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and tend to involve the referral of patients to a community or voluntary organisation. During their time spent within such communities, patients can carry out activities deemed to aid them in meeting ‘their social and emotional needs’.
Yet recently, community gardening, as a type of prescription, has been rising in popularity in the medical sphere, particularly because the activity has the added benefit of consisting in time spent in nature, even around highly built-up areas and cities. Evidence-based research suggests that such treatments can help to improve a patient’s anxiety levels, as well as their general health. Additionally, findings suggest that social prescribing schemes such as these may lead to a reduction in the use of NHS services. It is also thought that participating in schemes such as community gardening can ‘encourage people to adopt healthier behaviours’ such as forming the habit of eating fresh, local produce.
Applicants for Human Sciences, as well as those applying for HSPS, can consider how alternative forms of treatment such as this, may be helpful in paving the way of future medical care. They can explore how prescriptions such as social and therapeutic horticulture, may potentially offer better solutions, as compared to traditional methods of treatment, when treating illnesses related to mental health.