Feeling chirped: The presence of birds is linked to long-lasting mental health benefits

Summary: Using an app called Urban Mind, researchers found a direct link between positive mood and seeing or hearing birds.

Source: King’s College London

New research from King’s College London has found that seeing or hearing birds is associated with improved mental wellbeing that can last for up to eight hours.

This improvement was also evident in people diagnosed with depression – the most common mental illness in the world – indicating the potential role of birdlife in helping people with mental health issues.

Posted in Scientific Reports, the study used the Urban Mind smartphone app to collect people’s real-time reports of mental wellbeing alongside their reports of seeing or hearing birdsong.

Lead author Ryan Hammoud, research assistant at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, said: “There is a growing body of evidence on the mental health benefits of being in the wild and we intuitively think that the presence of the birds would help lift our spirits. However, little research has actually investigated the impact of birds on mental health in real time and in a real environment.

“Using the Urban Mind app, we have for the first time shown the direct link between seeing or hearing birds and a positive mood. We hope this evidence can demonstrate the importance of protecting and providing environments to encourage birds, not only for biodiversity but for our mental health.

The study took place between April 2018 and October 2021, with 1,292 participants completing 26,856 assessments using the Urban Mind app, developed by King’s College London, landscape architects J&L Gibbons and the foundation artistic Nomad Projects.

Participants were recruited from around the world, with the majority based in the United Kingdom, the European Union and the United States of America.

The app asked participants three times a day if they could see or hear birds, followed by questions about mental wellbeing to allow researchers to establish an association between the two and estimate how long this association lasted.

The study also gathered information about existing diagnoses of mental health conditions and found that hearing or seeing birds was associated with improvements in mental wellbeing in healthy people and those with depression. .

The researchers showed that the links between birds and mental well-being were not explained by co-occurring environmental factors such as the presence of trees, plants or waterways.

The researchers showed that the links between birds and mental well-being were not explained by co-occurring environmental factors such as the presence of trees, plants or waterways. Image is in public domain

Lead author Andrea Mechelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health at IoPPN, King’s College London, said: “The term ecosystem services is often used to describe the benefits of certain aspects of the natural environment on our physical and mental health. However, it can be difficult to scientifically prove these benefits.

“Our study provides an evidence base for creating and supporting biodiverse spaces that are home to birds, as this is strongly linked to our mental health. Additionally, the findings support the implementation of measures to increase opportunities for people to encounter birds, especially for those living with mental health issues such as depression.

Research partner and landscape architect Jo Gibbons, of J&L Gibbons, said: “Who hasn’t listened to the melodic intricacies of the dawn chorus early on a spring morning? A multi-sensory experience that seems to enrich everyday life, whatever our moods and our movements.

“This exciting research shows how much the sight and sound of birdsong lifts spirits. It captures intriguing evidence that an environment rich in biodiversity is restorative in terms of mental well-being. That the sensual stimulation of birdsong, which is part of these daily “doses” of nature, is precious and long-lasting. »

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About this mental health research news

Author: Press office
Source: King’s College London
Contact: Press Office – King’s College London
Image: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
Momentary Smartphone-Based Ecological Assessment Reveals the Mental Health Benefits of Birdlife” by Ryan Hammoud et al. Scientific reports


Summary

Momentary Smartphone-Based Ecological Assessment Reveals the Mental Health Benefits of Birdlife

The mental health benefits of daily encounters with birds for mental health are poorly understood. Previous studies have generally relied on retrospective questionnaires or artificial setups with little ecological validity.

In the present study, we used the Urban Mind smartphone app to examine the impact of seeing or hearing birds on self-reported mental well-being in real-life settings. A sample of 1,292 participants completed a total of 26,856 momentary ecological assessments between April 2018 and October 2021.

Daily encounters with birds have been associated with lasting improvements in mental well-being. These improvements were evident not only in healthy people, but also in those diagnosed with depression, the most common mental illness in the world.

These findings have potential implications for environmental and wildlife protection and mental health policies. Specific measures aimed at preserving and increasing daily encounters with avifauna in urban areas should be put in place.

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