Connecting with nature can improve your health and wellbeing, say researchers in this week's British Medical Journal. The theory is known as ecotherapy: restoring health through contact with nature.
Use of wildlife in some therapies is reported to improve quality of life, write the authors. Smaller animals (for example, squirrels, owls, and raccoons) have been used successfully in therapies for children with emotional and behavioural problems.
People who take part in conservation projects report subjective health benefits, ascribed to being outdoors and to feeling part of a greater system connecting beyond the individual. Such projects can help overcome social isolation, develop skills, and improve employment prospects, as well as provide the known benefits associated with exercise.
Although initial research has been promising, the UK needs robust health impact assessments of wildlife projects to determine their objective therapeutic value, say the authors.
English Nature has advocated a national strategy to encourage people to reconnect with nature and benefit from proximity to wildlife.
Partnerships between healthcare providers and nature organisations to share and exchange expertise could create new policies that recognise the interdependence between healthy people and healthy ecosystems, they conclude.
Editorial: Human health and nature conservation BMJ Volume 331, pp 1221-2
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