It can be hard to evaluate the value of things as a communicator. Putting a value on things is a powerful way of stating your case. Clare Parker, head of communications at Forest Research which is part of the Forestry Commission, explains how they were part of a team team that arrived at the mental health benefit of woods as £185 million. The report sets out the methodology used to arrive at the conclusions.
For years there was a lot to be said about the benefits to your mental health if you went outside. That personal good vibe, a break from the routine, even medical professionals making ‘green’ prescriptions to make the most of fresh air and a connection to nature. We all knew there was something good about it.
A report from the social science team in Forest Research, the Great Britain-wide research arm of the Forestry Commission, for the first time put a figure on it. £185million A YEAR can be saved by visiting woodlands.
It’s not often there’s a real gamechanger, but this report is worthy of its landmark status.
“Valuing the mental health benefits of woodlands” report has some pretty impressive findings. A scoping study showed how being in forests increased chemical levels and hormones to make people feel better, and people felt less stressed during and after their visits. Incidents of depression went down by seven per cent and just 30 minutes per week will give you noticeable benefits. This isn’t about exercise either, just sitting or meditating amongst the trees increases the benefits too.
Those statement themselves are amazing, but it’s the hard fact that savings can be made in the annual costs to society of living with depression or anxiety. That is, in working hours no longer lost, medicines gone unprescribed, professional therapy unused. And those savings might even be underestimated.
The monetary value of the outdoors is an incredible piece of evaluation. Demonstrating the “avoided costs” to society is a powerful tool in understanding the impact of recognising, managing and even curing mental health.
In short, that lunchtime walk is not only doing you the world of good, it’s saving your organisation and society money.
Footnote: It was a privilege to work on the communications for this report. This truly was a team effort from the authors, the publishers and communications and press teams across Forest Research, the Forestry Commission, Defra, Scottish Government and Welsh Government.
Clare Parker is head of communications at Forest Research which is part of the Forestry Commission.