Benefits of doses of neighbourhood nature

Cox, D.T.C., Plummer, K.E., Shanahan, D.F., Siriwardena, G.M., Fuller, R.A., Anderson, K., Hancock, S. & Gaston, K.J. 2017. Doses of neighborhood nature: the benefits for mental health of living with nature. BioScience, in press. shutterstock_305124968

Experiences of nature provide many mental-health benefits, particularly for people living in urban areas. The natural characteristics of city residents’ neighborhoods are likely to be crucial determinants of the daily nature dose that they receive; however, which characteristics are important remains unclear. One possibility is that the greatest benefits are provided by characteristics that are most visible during the day and so most likely to be experienced by people. We demonstrate that of five neighborhood nature characteristics tested, vegetation cover and afternoon bird abundances were positively associated with a lower prevalence of depression, anxiety, and stress. Furthermore, dose–response modeling shows a threshold response at which the population prevalence of mental-health issues is significantly lower beyond minimum limits of neighborhood vegetation cover (depression more than 20% cover, anxiety more than 30% cover, stress more than 20% cover). Our findings demonstrate quantifiable associations of mental health with the characteristics of nearby nature that people actually experience. [Image from Shutterstock]