Free report: connecting to nature

Connecting to nature


Mental health issues in young people are on the rise. With more of their time being spent in a virtual, technologically-advanced indoor world, is this to blame? And if so, what can be done?

Strong evidence shows that engagement with outdoor natural environments is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing: through a restorative effect, positive social contact and opportunities for physical activity.

Our free report Young People's Mental Health and Wellbeing: Connecting to Nature explains what can be done, and the role schools, colleges and workplaces can play, in promoting good mental health and wellbeing in young people.

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Report Executive Summary

Mental health and wellbeing issues amongst young people are on the rise. The most recent government Child and Adolescent Mental Health Survey (CAMH), published in 2017, identified that 1 in 8 young people aged between 5 and 19 have a clinically diagnosed mental health problem. The report also recognised that the majority of mental health issues start in childhood or adolescence and continue into adulthood. This highlights the importance of the 10 to 20 age bracket – as a time fraught with risks to young people’s mental health, and a time to focus on protective factors around their wellbeing.

Research suggests the cause for this rise is a combination of academic pressures and a change in lifestyles amongst youth today. Young people are spending on average 13 hours a week watching television services and over 20 hours a week online (predominately on social media). This has led to a recent government report stating that up to three-quarters of young people spend less time outdoors than prison inmates and up to a fifth of children not playing outside at all on an average day.

Moving forward, schools, work places, charities and other youth sector organisations are very much part of the solution to improving young people’s wellbeing – by bridging the gap between parents, healthcare services and young people themselves. Health and wellbeing are multi-dimensional concepts, and the New Economics Foundation’s (NEF) evidenced-based framework “Five Ways to Wellbeing” for promoting wellbeing is one approach that can be easily embedded into schools and work places. The framework is based on research commissioned by the UK Government, and details a set of actions that can be taken to improve individual mental health and wellbeing.

There is now a strong evidence base to show that engagement with natural environments is beneficial for mental health and wellbeing: through a restorative effect; opportunities for positive social contact; and opportunities for physical activity. At The Outward Bound Trust, for over 77 years we have been providing young people with the kinds of experiences now promoted through the Five Ways to Wellbeing framework. Taken in combination with nature, these Five Ways to Wellbeing can have maximum effect. We specialise in developing skills such as self-awareness, self-esteem, confidence, self-management, resilience and determination by providing opportunities for young people to connect with others, to be active, to become more aware, to support others and to learn new skills. These skills are proven essentials in both preventing the onset of and combating diagnosed mental health problems, and promoting young people’s mental wellbeing.