A recent large-scale study, led by researchers from the University of Exeter, has found that spending at least two hours a week outdoors in nature may be a ‘crucial threshold for promoting health and wellbeing’. The study found that participants who spent at least 2 hours per week in natural settings such as town parks, woodlands, country parks and beaches, were noticeably more likely to report good health and higher psychological wellbeing compared to those who did not visit nature at all during an average week, as well as those who spent less than an average of 2 hours a week outdoors in nature.
Although it may be common knowledge that time spent outdoors is beneficial for a person’s health, the study sought to understand the type and quantity of natural encounters needed to receive health benefits. Interestingly, it found that the ‘two-hour threshold’ was present in all groups of people: ‘young and old, men and women, people in cities or rural communities, deprived and wealthy communities, and people with and without long-term illness or disability’.
Co-author of the study, Professor Terry Hartig of Uppsala University based in Sweden, has said: ‘there are many reasons why spending time in nature may be good for health and wellbeing, including getting perspective on life circumstances, reducing stress, and enjoying quality time with friends and family’. With the ever-increasing levels of stress as well as expanding kinds of stress factors faced by people nowadays, these findings offer valuable support to health practitioners in making recommendations and setting guidelines on the amount of time people should be spending in nature to promote basic health and wellbeing, as they similarly do with guidelines concerning weekly physical activity.
Students interested in pursuing studies in Human Sciences may consider the interplay between psychological and physical wellbeing as well as the different ways in which improvements in psychological and mental wellbeing may be beneficial in promoting humans’ overall health.