Nature, birdwatching good for mental health - study

Birds flock to Bolivia's Plaza Murillo (Getty)
Birds and tourists flock to Plaza Murillo in La Paz, Bolivia (Getty)

Getting back to nature will have you feeling like a box of birds, according to new research which links it to lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress.

The study from the University of Exeter, the British Trust for Ornithology and the University of Queensland involved hundreds of people and measured links between mental health and their surroundings.

It found being able to see birds, shrubs and trees around their home, whether in urban or suburban areas, had a positive effect.

More than 270 people from different ages, socio-economic status and ethnicities were surveyed about their mental health.

A survey of bird numbers in the morning and afternoon in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton was also conducted.

Lower levels of depression, anxiety and stress were associated with the numbers of birds people could see in the afternoon.

Researchers focused on the afternoon period because that was the time people were more likely to see birds in their neighbourhood.

The study found those surveyed who'd spent less time outdoors than usual in the previous week were more likely to report being more anxious or depressed.

The particular species of bird - most commonly blackbirds, robins, blue tits and crows - didn't have any bearing on how people felt.

Rather, it was more the number which could be seen from their windows, in their garden or neighbourhood.

University of Exeter research fellow and lead author Dr Daniel Cox says the findings show the role nature can play in making cities better for their residents.

"Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live," Dr Cox says.