Researchers analysed the social value of Wildlife Trusts’ nature conservation projects which offer outdoor volunteering opportunities and programmes that support people experiencing problems such as anxiety, stress or mild depression.
The report draws on the conclusions of three years research which found that people participating in both sorts of outdoor nature conservation activities felt significantly better, both emotionally and physically, as a result. They needed, for example, fewer visits to GPs or felt more able to get back into work.
The report – Social return on investment analysis of the health and wellbeing impacts of Wildlife Trust programmes – calculates the social return on investment for every £1 invested in the two types of Wildlife Trust projects and found that they are excellent value:
• For every £1 invested in regular nature volunteering projects which play a part in creating a healthy lifestyle by tackling problems like physical inactivity or loneliness, there is an £8.50 social return.
• For every £1 invested in specialised health or social needs projects which connect people to nature and cost more to run, there is a £6.88 social return.
Dom Higgins, Nature and Wellbeing Manager, The Wildlife Trusts says: “Evidence shows that nature volunteering or taking part in a more specialised health and nature project really works. People who have low levels of wellbeing feel healthier and happier when they’re connected to wildlife and wild places.
“We want to see the concept of nature on prescription becoming a core part of the National Health Service (NHS) mental wellbeing programmes. This new report shows the enormous value of a natural health service. It’s also important to have more investment in Wildlife Trust outdoor volunteering which has been proven to improve mental, physical and social wellbeing.
“In addition, we need many more wild, natural places near to where people live and work – that way, green prescribing can be rolled-out everywhere. This would help the NHS save money – as well as help nature to recover.”