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Can green prescriptions help people with depression and anxiety? That might depend on how they are given out if new research is anything to go by.

An international team led by Exeter University found spending time in nature does help people with such conditions if they are the ones who choose to do so.

But researchers found the wellbeing benefits were undermined when visits were not by choice.

Dr Michelle Tester-Jones, who led the study, said: “These findings are consistent with wider research that suggests that urban natural environments provide spaces for people to relax and recover from stress.

Nature cannot be forced on anyone, but must be provided at the individual’s own pace and will

Matilda van den Bosch, University of British Columbia

‘However, they also demonstrate that healthcare practitioners and loved ones should be sensitive when recommending time in nature for people who have depression and anxiety. It could be helpful to encourage them to spend more time in places that people already enjoy visiting; so they feel comfortable and can make the most of the experience.’

The research, published in Scientific Reports, involved 18,000 people in 18 countries.

Matilda van den Bosch, Assistant Professor at The University of British Columbia, said: ‘For green prescriptions, like with any intervention, it is important to avoid pressure to achieve compliance with the treatment.

‘Nature cannot be forced on anyone, but must be provided at the individual’s own pace and will.’

Green prescriptions mapping highlights challenges facing sector

A perceived lack of organisations offering ‘green prescriptions’ is seen by GPs as a barrier to helping patients benefit from them.

Find out more