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New research suggests that nature on prescription could save the NHS over £635 million yearly. What is it about time in nature that is so restorative? We take a deep dive into the benefits of nature prescribing.

What is nature-based social prescription?

Sometimes known as “blue prescriptions” or “green prescriptions” a plethora of nature prescribing programmes are emerging around the world. Such programmes are prescribed by doctors, increasing the amount of time patients spend in the great outdoors. Why? And where does the idea of prescribing come from? Increasingly, data demonstrates that time spent in green space can improve health. Perversely, we’re more disconnected from nature than ever before. That’s where nature prescribing comes in. Increasingly, health professionals are integrating nature prescriptions with standard medical care. For example, the UK Government recently invested £5.77 million in a pilot program for ‘green social prescribing’ and Canada has a national nature prescription program.

Nature prescribing research

Research, published in The Lancet Planetary Health led by Professor Xiaoqi Feng from UNSW Medicine & Healthand Professor Thomas AstellBurt from the University of Wollongong found that nature prescriptions can improve physical and mental health. What’s more, researchers discovered patients had reduced blood pressure, as well as lower depression and anxiety scores. They also had a higher daily step count.  

Closer to home, in A Natural Health Service: Improving Lives and Saving Money the Wildlife Trust found that green prescribing can save more in healthcare costs than the price of running a green prescribing scheme. If you’ve ever spent time in nature and noticed the many benefits, you won’t be surprised. What might surprise you, however, is this. Significantly, for every £1 invested, there is £1.19 of additional benefit in terms of reduced costs to the NHS. For this reason alone, that’s a return on investment not to be sniffed at.

The benefits of nature prescribing

Overall, researchers have found that social prescribing has many benefits;

  • Reducing loneliness
  • Improving mental health
  • Tackles anxiety
  • Reducing blood pressure
  • Decreasing stress
  • Reduces social isolation
  • Improves sleep

Here’s paediatrician, Dr. Nooshin Razani talking about the healing power of prescribing time in nature. She describes how nature can be an essential part of healthy living.

Unquestioningly, time in nature is healing. Consequently, when we experience time in nature, we’re more likely to engage in pro-nature behaviours. That’s good for the planet and it’s good for us. Could nature prescribing be coming to a park, forest or public garden near you? We certainly hope so.

To discover more about the benefits of rewinding yourself in nature, check out our free resources and courses.

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