Volunteering with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust could have a positive impact on mental health, a new study has found.
The report, which examined the effects of volunteering outdoors in nature on people's mental health, was carried out by the University of Essex.
It found that 95 per cent of participants who were identified as having poor levels of mental health showed improvement within six weeks, which increased further over 12 weeks. Improvements were greatest for people new to volunteering with The Wildlife Trusts.
Participants reported significantly enhanced feelings of positivity, increased general health and higher levels of physical activity.
The study, The Health and Wellbeing Impacts of Volunteering with The Wildlife Trusts, was the third phase of scientific research carried out by the University of Essex on behalf of all The Wildlife Trusts.
It assessed changes in 139 participants' attitudes, behaviour and mental well-being over the course of 12 weeks during which they took part in nature conservation volunteering activities.
Most of the participants were attending projects because of a health or social need, such as suffering with a mental health problem or loneliness and inactivity.
Senior marketing officer at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, Kaite Helps, said: "We are delighted that the report provides real evidence that volunteering with your Local Wildlife Trust on nature conservation projects improves people's well-being, especially for those people who had a low level of well-being at the very start.
"We believe that this shows there is an important, non-medical service to people, that has the potential, if utilised, to reduce the current burden on the National Health Service. There are so many ways you can volunteer with Derbyshire Wildlife Trust, so get involved today – for your own well-being and helping others with theirs."
While millions of people benefit from The Wildlife Trusts' wild places and projects every year, the organisation also works with over 40,000 active nature volunteers across the UK. The earlier, second, phase of Essex University's research assessed the multitude of schemes being delivered across the Trusts and how wildlife-rich places improve mood, reduce social isolation and make a significant contribution to the nation’s health and well-being.
Dominic Higgins, Nature and Wellbeing Manager at The Wildlife Trusts said: "The results of this structured research project make a powerful case for nature having a larger role in people's everyday lives. The evidence is loud and clear – volunteering in wild places while being supported by Wildlife Trust staff has a clear impact on people's health; it makes people feel better, happier and more connected to other people.
"Participants also reported increases in their sense of connection to nature. The Department of Health should take note – our findings could help reduce the current burden on the National Health Service because they illustrate a new model of caring for people that does not rely solely on medication and traditional services."
Quotes from Wildlife Trust volunteers who took part in the study:
"I feel more connected to nature and my environment and have developed interests in this area."
"Since I retired 7 years ago this project has been essential to my wellbeing – mental and physical."
"I feel happier in myself."
"I have a greater appreciation for birds, bees, insects, plants and trees."
"Made me feel more content and happy about nature than I ever have."
"It's restoring my faith in human nature."
How can you get involved with your local Wildlife Trust?
There are plenty of volunteering opportunities to discover at Derbyshire Wildlife Trust to increase your own health and well-being, but also to help others with theirs. Volunteering options include:
- Volunteer on reserves
- Volunteer with the education team
- Volunteer at the shops
- Volunteer with the marketing team
Visit http://www.derbyshirewildlifetrust.org.uk/how-you-can-help/volunteering for all the volunteering opportunities or call 01773 881188 or email email@example.com to find out more.