Recent research by a team from Deakin University explored the health and wellbeing benefits of civic environmentalism – voluntary communal actions undertaken to promote ecosystem sustainability, typified by membership of a ‘friends of parks’ group. The research confirmed what was known intuitively: that belonging to such a group and undertaking the activities associated with such a group exposes people not only to the benefits of the natural environment, but also to other people and to opportunities to make a contribution which is socially valued.
On the basis of those findings, a pilot project involving intentional engagement of people suffering depression and related disorders in supported nature-based activities in a woodland environment is being implemented and evaluated. This article reports on that project and discusses the implications of its findings to date, and the findings of the three earlier projects, both for urban woodland/forest managers and for the health sector.
As this contribution indicates, there appears to be potential for the use of civic environmentalism to promote health, wellbeing and social connectedness for individuals and the wider population, as well as for groups with identified health vulnerabilities. However, the realization of the benefits of such an approach will be dependent on co-operation between the environment and health sectors to create and promote opportunities for increased civic environmentalism, and to identify and address the barriers to their effective use.
Field of Research
111714 Mental Health
Socio Economic Objective
970111 Expanding Knowledge in the Medical and Health Sciences
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