New research highlights impact of green social prescribing

Categories: School of Science, Engineering and Environment

New research has shown how green space can be used to improve health and wellbeing of people from deprived backgrounds through social prescribing. 

Dr Anna Kenyon of The University of Salford, in partnership with the University of York, worked on a study that investigated the benefits of Green Social Prescribing. The purpose of the study was to support and improve mental health and wellbeing among targeted groups and to develop and enhance natural spaces.  

The study found that by having an innate connection with nature during the projects, the participants were able to improve their mental health, as well as simultaneously helping the surrounding community. 

Social prescribing involves the referral of patients to services within the community to support their health and wellbeing and is a high priority policy for NHS England. By referring patients to non-clinical services, social prescribing reduces demands on health and social care and enables the delivery of personalised care, as well providing benefits to the wider community.  

In recent years, evidence has begun to show that nature-based interventions such as gardening, food growing and planting can have a positive impact on mental health and wellbeing and as part of this new research the team looked at the effect this has on people with low socioeconomic status and target groups included helping young people from deprived backgrounds, people who are dealing with mental health issues and learning difficulties and service users from mental health hospitals. 

With over 250 participants, the study was split into 8 different projects held in West Yorkshire, with each consisting of different activities, such as growing vegetables in an allotment, creating a wildlife garden, and plating trees. Throughout all the projects, the participants were successful in completing the projects goals and agreed that the use of green social prescribing gave them a goal to work towards and improved their wellbeing because of it. One participant said: “You forget and can just be in the moment and forget all your problems, even if it's only for half an hour or a day. Just from being out there and being in the green space, a lot of people just benefit from sitting out there and just being able to feel connected with nature and being in that environment.” 

After each projects’ completion, the service providers clearly noticed the positive impact the green social prescribing had on the participants. The themes of peace and restoration, self determination and social cohesion that ran through the project helped to aid recovery and support overall health, whilst allowing the participants to reignite ambition in their lives.

Dr Anna Kenyon, a Lecturer in Spatial Epidemiology, who wrote the report, said: “These projects found a way to make everything work. Running these projects was genuinely incredible. Interviewing the participants involved was amazing. It was fascinating seeing the way some of the people think and the way they work.” 

Despite the initial funding coming to an end, all 8 projects have plans to continue to deliver their service to keep benefitting the wellbeing of the community.

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