Improving Mental Health Through Experiencing Nature and Wild Birds

September 24, 2017 | Kelly Barany, Chin Ridge Seeds

I have often felt that we need to get scientists to do research on the benefits of backyard bird feeding on mental health. I see the joy that bird feeding brings to people, both young and old. Recently, I was happy to come across an interesting study that does link bird watching with positive mental health and I wanted to share this study with you.

Research done by academics at the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland was recently published in BioScience Journal (Vol 67, Issue 2, 1 February 2017) and links the abundance of backyard birds and plants in a neighborhood with lower levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

The study looked at 1,023 adults in southern England and evaluated how the abundance of vegetation, the abundance of birds and bird diversity affected mental health in the area. The study concluded that people living in neighborhoods with greater levels of vegetation and greater afternoon bird populations had less severe depression, anxiety, and stress. The study could not find a link to bird diversity, meaning that it was more the abundance of birds than the different types of bird that affected mental health. The study also linked greater time outdoors with a more positive state of mind. This would seem to indicate that the ability to experience the outdoors including hearing the birds sing was an important factor.

So what does this study mean for urban planners and people who run public facilities like senior citizen homes? Could we improve the mental health of our communities while supporting nature, by adding more green spaces to communities, and to take it one step further, by putting in bird feeders to make those spaces more interactive with nature? There's a little food for thought for you.