Are some natural environments more psychologically beneficial than others? New findings.

A new paper published by Mat White and colleagues in the journal Environment and Behavior has found that some protected and designated environments are associated with greater restoration and connectedness to nature than their equivalent non-designated environments.

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The authors analysed a sample of Natural England’s Monitor of Engagement with the Natural environment dataset and found that urban and rural greenspaces and coastal environments with designated status were all associated with greater recalled restoration than locations without designated status and, urban greenspaces and coastal environments with designated status were also associated with greater connectedness to nature than locations without designated status.

‘Designation’ is a tool which is used to recognise, and in some cases protect, the environmental, scientific, and cultural importance of a place. There are two broad types of designation; first, those which are statutory and which have been designated in accordance with legislation and are typically are subject to legal protection, and second, non-statutory or local designations, these are not underpinned by legislation. The JNCC have information on the many different types of designation.

The team, led by Kayleigh Wyles from the University of Surrey, suggest that the findings may have implications for both future research into the health benefits of natural environments and for the management of special places:

“The different effects of particular types of nature, for example, coastal environments, coupled with the finding that PDAs are associated with greater psychological benefits, emphasize the importance of not oversimplifying natural environments. The findings also reinforce that psychological benefits are associated with visiting different types of natural settings irrespective of socioeconomic status, and this highlights the importance of making nature widely accessible. Such understanding could support the prioritization of access to, and protection of, different environments or aspects of them, now and in the future, to maintain these additional psychological benefits for visitors.”

Wyles, K. J., White, M. P., Hattam, C., Pahl, S., King, H., & Austen, M. Are Some Natural Environments More Psychologically Beneficial Than Others? The Importance of Type and Quality on Connectedness to Nature and Psychological Restoration. Environment and Behavior doi: 10.1177/0013916517738312

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