It’s official – the humble bird boosts mental health and happiness

By Health Correspondent

The sight and tweets of birds are one of the delights of the world. Now a new study shows how birdlife encounters can treat mental health conditions

New research has highlighted the mental health benefits of everyday encounters with birdlife, claiming those that hear or see birds are “significantly” happier than those that don’t. 

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, said the results of their experiment were notable and that the benefits of birdlife on mental wellbeing were “above and beyond the well-established effect of green spaces.”

The report claims that everyday exposure to birdlife could be prescribed by doctors to help treat mental health conditions. They found that those who encountered birds regularly recorded higher mental wellbeing scores.

The study tracked 1,292 participants over a two-week period. They monitored their everyday encounters with birds via a smartphone app called Urban Mind. The participants, from the UK, Europe, the US, China and Australia, were prompted at random intervals to record how they were feeling.

The researchers found that participants’ average mental wellbeing scores increased when they saw or heard birds. This was evident in both people with depression and people without a mental health condition.

The research states that the beneficial effect on mental wellbeing is still significant after the encounter with birds has taken place, with higher levels of mental wellbeing noted by participants who did not see or hear birds the next time they recorded their mood. 

Andrea Mechelli, professor of early intervention in mental health at King’s College London, said: “We need to create and support environments, particularly urban environments, where bird life is a constant feature. To have a healthy population of birds, you also need plants, you also need trees. We need to nurture the whole ecosystem within our cities.”

Mechelli went on to speak about the impact bird noises can have on those that have been diagnosed with depression. He admitted everyday exposure to birdlife could be more beneficial than prescribing exercise.

He said: “We know exercise makes everyone feel better. But it’s incredibly challenging to motivate someone with depression to exercise. Whereas contact with bird life is something that, perhaps, is feasible.”

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