Researchers from UNSW Sydney have analyzed 28 international studies that tested the effects of nature prescriptions on real-life patients. Instead of recommending a drug or medical procedure, a nature prescription instructs patients to spend time in nature. Professor Xiaoqi Feng of UNSW Medicine & Health and Professor Thomas Astell-Burt of University of Wollongong published their systematic review and meta-analysis on nature prescriptions in The Lancet Planetary Health. They reported the many positive physical and mental health effects of venturing outdoors. Contact with nature reduces harm from stressors like poor air quality, heatwaves, and chronic stress, while supporting healthy interactions and physical activity. Healthy behaviors, in turn, can prevent loneliness, depression, and cardiovascular disease. “What we need now is to work out how to make nature prescriptions happen in a sustained way for those people with high potential to benefit, but who currently spend little time in nature,” says Professor Feng. An important aspect of nature prescriptions is that it should be accessible to everyone. Previous research has shown that people from low-income communities have fewer opportunities to be in close contact with nature, which increases their risk of developing chronic health issues like type 2 diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. While there are still many unanswered questions and more evidence is needed for actual nature prescriptions to take place, the link between exposure to nature and well-being is gaining support.

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