New research has shown walks in Scotland’s woodlands are saving the NHS millions of pounds in mental health treatment costs every year.
A new report, backed by Scottish Forestry, has been able to put an exact figure on the benefits of the great outdoors for the first time.
It takes into account the likes of GP appointments, prescriptions, treatment and lost work days due to mental illness that would otherwise be needed if people weren’t taking the chance to escape to nature.
An estimated £185 million is saved across the UK every year, including £26m in Scotland.
Over the next 100 years, this figure is expected to hit a total of £100 billion.
How do woodlands help with depression and anxiety?
Mental health charity Mind says the mix of physical activity and social contact can play a large role in improving people’s moods.
Being out in natural light has also been proven to help people with seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
The organisation’s head of information, Stephen Buckley, said: “Spending time outdoors – especially in woodlands or near water – can help with mental health problems such as anxiety and mild to moderate depression.
“Although many of us feel like hibernating in winter, getting outside in green spaces and making the most of the little daylight we get can really benefit both your physical and mental health.”
The charity runs an information line on 0300 123 3393.
Benefits ‘widely recognised’
Environment Minister Màiri McAllan said: “Scotland’s forests and woodlands offer so many environmental, social and economic benefits to society.
“During the pandemic, access to woodlands has become even more important to individuals in supporting and maintaining their wellbeing.
“It is widely recognised that spending time in woodlands can have a positive effect on alleviating conditions such as depression and anxiety.
“This study is important because we now have a clear monetary value on how much our woodland resource could be worth in tackling poor mental health.”
There are many ideal locations across the north and north-east for walking and connecting with nature.