New analysis of Natural England’s Monitor of Engagement with Natural Environments data has found that spending 120 mins or more in nature each week may be a ‘threshold’ for health and wellbeing gain.
Mat White and colleagues focused on the associations between self-reported time spent in natural environments for recreation in the last seven days and self-reported health and subjective wellbeing. See the MENE technical report for details on survey methodology.
They found that people who reported spending between 1 and 119 mins in nature in the last week were no more likely to report good health or high wellbeing than those who reported no time in nature. However, people who reported spending 120 mins or more in nature over the last week had consistently higher levels of health and wellbeing than those who reported no exposure.
The results, reported in Scientific Reports, showed that it didn’t matter whether the reported 120 minutes was achieved in a single visit or over several shorter visits. The team also found that the 120 minute ‘threshold’ was present even for those who lived in low greenspace areas. Finally they found the association held for people who reported long-term illnesses or disabilities. This suggests that the positive overall association in the data can’t only be explained by the potential that healthier people visit nature more often.
To give the findings context the team compared the magnitude of effect of 120 minutes or more of exposure to nature with other factors that are known to influence health. They found that the ‘association between health, wellbeing and ≥120 mins spent in nature a week, was similar to associations between health, well-being and: (a) living in an area of low vs. high deprivation; (b) being employed in a high vs. low social grade occupation; and (c) achieving vs. not achieving recommended levels of physical activity in the last week. Given the widely stated importance of all these factors for health and well-being, we interpret the size of the nature relationship to be meaningful in terms of potential public health implications.’
The team argue that 120 minutes contact with nature each week may indicate a threshold, under which there is insufficient exposure to produce significant benefits to health and wellbeing, but over which the benefits become apparent. However the team caution that more prospective cohort, longitudinal, and experimental studies are needed to test the associations.
White, M.P., Alcock, I., Grellier, J., Wheeler, B.W., Hartig, T., Warber, S.L., Bone, A., Depledge, M.H., Fleming, L.E., 2019. Spending at least 120 minutes a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing. Scientific Reports 9, 7730.