5 things to know about the connection between loss of nature and our mental health
Project #D– PLANETARY LIMIT #2 Biodiversity Loss; SOCIAL NEED #3 Health
By Jane Fiona Cumming
Whilst the overall importance of nature is clear, we wanted to reflect on the positive impact that nature and biodiversity can have on our wellbeing. Recent pandemic-induced lockdowns meant that people were more appreciative of their opportunity to connect with nature and realise the benefits on their daily walks. Societal problems with mental health are well documented and will likely increase with the prospect of winter and cost-of living challenges. We share six facts - from our ongoing research into planetary limits and social needs – considering the connections between nature, biodiversity and mental wellness.
The World Health Organisation estimates that mental disorders will affect 1 in 4 people globally. Increasingly, doctors are now prescribing nature experiences as alternatives to medicines. For example, a trial in Scotland has revealed that 87% of patients will continue to make the most of nature in order to help their health and wellbeing.
Nature experience directly affects human mental health. A strong connection to the natural environment enhances emotional wellbeing and alleviates feelings of social isolation. It has also been shown to help sufferers from mental health conditions like attention disorders, mood disorders and anxiety.
A recent German scientific study showed that plant and bird species richness are positively related to mental health. These results highlight the importance for species diversity for people’s mental health and wellbeing. Policy makers, landscape planners and green space managers on the local and national level should consider supporting biodiverse environments to promote mental health and wellbeing.
Planetary Limit #2, the loss of biosphere integrity, is classed as high-risk status – beyond the zone of uncertainty. The current and projected rates of biodiversity loss, as measured by the Biodiversity Intactness Index and Extinction Rate, constitute the sixth major extinction event in the history of life on Earth and the first as a direct consequence of human activities.
The UN reports that 1 million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction. The extinction rate of seed plants — including most trees, flowers and fruit-bearing plants — is about 500 times faster than what would be expected naturally.
$44 trillion of economic value generation – over half the world's total GDP – is moderately or highly dependent on nature and its services. We looked at how the world’s largest companies are reporting their impact on biodiversity. Our latest practitioner research shows only 7% of the world’s largest companies reviewed are setting a target for biodiversity loss. Of that handful of targets set, none were at scale with what the planet needs. More worryingly, these figures have not significantly changed in the past 12 months.
Our research also showed how the world’s largest companies are reporting their impact on Social Need #2 - health. Whilst the number of companies measuring their impact has increased to 36%, only 7% have set targets to help address health needs. This shows a decline in the past 12 months.
See a snapshot of our latest research here.
If you would like help to measure your impact and ensure your targets are set at scale with what the world needs, get in touch.
Rockstrom et al (2009), Steffen et al. 2015
Humphreys et al. 2015