Time Outdoors Can Make You Happier, Healthier, and Perform Better at Work, New Research Reveals

On 3rd November 2023
Categories: 2023

The Greener Communities Fund is a collaboration from NHS Charities Together and Hubbub that hopes to boost the public’s health and wellbeing with new community spaces and increased access to nature, while also helping our environment and the NHS at the same time. It will especially benefit those who currently have limited access to green spaces, including hospital staff, patients, people living in urban areas and other community groups.

This is more important than ever as a survey of 2,000 UK adults1 reveals people who spend more time outside are healthier, happier, more energetic, and more productive than those who do not. Those who spend 20 hours or more per week in a green or natural space are 41% more productive in an average day than those who spend less than 30 minutes a week outside. And three quarters say time in nature or green spaces gives them a boost of happiness that keeps them going all day.

The study also revealed that eight in ten of us (80%) find spending time in green spaces makes us healthier and more energetic, as well as feeling better physically and mentally (70%)1.

Thanks to the Greener Communities Fund, grants of between £29,000 and £200,000 are being given to NHS charities around the UK, including North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust’s charitable fund, North Tees and Hartlepool Together, who as a result of funding are now building a new outdoor space and therapy garden for their stroke and dementia patients.

Jameel Razak from Stockton-on-Tees had a stroke when he was just 23, and was an inpatient at the University Hospital of North Tees for a month, before the new dedicated outside space becomes available.

He said:

“I struggled so much, I was never off the ward and when I was, it was only as far as the hospital reception – it was so detrimental to my mental health. The care I received was incredible, but I never got a minute to myself to process things. There was limited access to green spaces at the time, so I found myself going to sit in my dad’s car in the car park for an hour just to get a change of scene. I wanted to be outside, especially when it was hot or sunny, and kept thinking ‘why am I stuck in here’.

“The new outdoor spaces will allow patients to have an outlet and much-needed freedom from the hecticness of the ward that I didn’t have. Being around grass and trees and greenery really does impact your mental health, and no doubt your recovery.”

Broadcaster and gardener Alan Titchmarsh said:

“Spending time in green spaces like parks and gardens isn’t just reserved for keen gardeners like myself, the health benefits for us all are clear. That’s why it’s so wonderful that the Greener Communities Fund exists and will enable more of us around the UK to experience the simple joys of the great outdoors. I for one am delighted.”

Amongst the top health benefits people reported from getting outdoors1 were improved mood (75%), immune benefits (36%), sleeping more soundly (28%) and feeling less stressed (38%). When they spend less time in nature than they would like, people report feeling sluggish (37%), tired (25%) and irritable (20%), as well as being less inclined to look after their wellbeing1. With results like this, it might not be surprising that more of us spending time in nature could improve our health, and in turn reduce pressure on the NHS.2

Louise McCathie, Director of Fundraising at NHS Charities Together, said:

“People not only feel better when they visit outside spaces, but they work and play better too. And by giving us space to relax, decompress or simply connect with others, they can also make a huge difference to our overall health.

“The Greener Communities Fund is a much-needed initiative to help local NHS charities create more green spaces across the UK and improve the nation’s health in the process. The more time we spend in nature, the more we all benefit – and we can help reduce pressure on the NHS too. That’s why it’s so important everyone gets that chance, wherever they live and whatever their circumstances.”

The study found that as well as feeling healthier, more than half of respondents (55%) said spending time in nature is likely to influence us to adopt behaviours that are good for the environment. Some popular ways to live a greener life include eating more plant-based meals (18%), choosing to walk rather than driving (30%) and recycling more (55%).

Being out in the open also makes us calmer, with 66% saying it makes them more inclined to take more care of their wellbeing.   

Gavin Ellis, Director of environmental charity Hubbub, said:

“As well as the health benefits of time outdoors, this research shows that spending time in nature makes people more likely to adopt other environmentally-friendly behaviours. That means that not only are these new green spaces created by the Greener Communities Fund directly benefitting the environment by tackling climate change and improving biodiversity, there is also a wider positive impact as the people who use them adopt more sustainable lifestyles.”

    1. This online survey of 2000 UK adults (nationally representative was commissioned by Barley Communications and conducted by market research company OnePoll, in accordance with the Market Research Society’s code of conduct. Data was collected between 20th-26th November 2023. All participants are double-opted in to take part in research and are paid an amount depending on the length and complexity of the survey. This survey was overseen and edited by the OnePoll research team, who are members of the MRS and have corporate membership to ESOMAR.  

    1. Public Health England, Improving Access to Greenspace: A New Review for 2020. Available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/904439/Improving_access_to_greenspace_2020_review.pdf

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