Study Reveals That Biodiversity Is Crucial to Nature’s Mental Health Benefits

Study Reveals That Biodiversity Is Crucial to Nature’s Mental Health Benefits


Biodiversity encompasses not only the world’s species, each with its own evolutionary history, but also genetic variety within and among populations, as well as species distribution over local habitats, ecosystems, landscapes, and entire continents or seas. Biodiversity is divided into various layers, beginning with genes and progressing to individual species, communities of organisms, and ultimately complete ecosystems, such as forests or coral reefs, wherein life interacts with the physical surroundings. These various interactions have kept Earth functional for billions of years.

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This citizen science study, published in Scientific Information and financed by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and Wellcome, collected real-time information on mental health and natural diversity from approximately 2000 participants via the smartphone application. Researchers discovered that surroundings with more natural characteristics, such as trees, birds, plants, and streams, are related to better mental health than environments with fewer elements, and that these advantages can continue for up to eight hours. Further investigation revealed that approximately a quarter of nature’s good impact on mental health could be attributed to the variety of features. These findings demonstrate that policies and actions that promote natural and biological diversity benefit both the ecosystem and public mental health.

What does the study say?

The study was conducted between April 2018 to September 2023, with 1,998 individuals completing over 41,000 assessments. Over 14 days, each participant was required to complete three assessments per day, entering details about their environment and responding to a series of mental health questions. Natural diversity was defined as the number of natural characteristics (trees, plants, birds, and water) present in the participant’s surroundings.

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Data were collected via the Urban Mind app, created by King’s College London, landscape architects J&L Gibbons, and arts charity Nomad Projects. Professor Andrea Mechelli, the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Maudsley Biomedical Research Centre, and the NIHR Applied Research Collaboration South London are funding the Urban Mind study through a Wellcome Climate Impacts Award.

  • Glowka L, Burhenne-Gulmin F, Synge H. 1994. A guide to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Gland Switzerland: World Conservation Union.
  • The Biological Diversity Crisis (1985). Edward O Wilson. BioScience (Vol 35)

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