Feeling cheerful: Being with birds is linked to lasting mental health benefits

Summary: Using an app called Urban Mind, the researchers found a direct link between positive mood and the sight or hearing of 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 well-being that can last 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 birds in helping people with mental health problems.

Posted in Scientific reports, The study used the Urban Mind smartphone app to collect people’s real-time reports of mental well-being along with 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 growing evidence on the mental health benefits of being out in nature and we intuitively think that the presence of birdsong and birds would help lift our moods, however, there is little research that has actually studied the impact of birds on mental health in real time and in a real-world environment.

“Using the Urban Mind app we showed for the first time the direct link between seeing or hearing birds and positive mood. We hope this evidence will demonstrate the importance of protecting and providing environments to encourage birds, not just 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 Nomad Projects artistic foundation.

Participants were recruited from around the world, most of them based in the UK, the European Union and the United States of America.

The app asked participants three times a day if they could see or hear the birds, followed by questions about mental well-being to allow the researchers to establish an association between the two and estimate the duration of this association.

The study also gathered information on existing diagnoses of mental health conditions and found that bird’s hearing or sight was associated with improvements in mental well-being in both healthy people and those with depression.

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

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

Senior 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 a basis of evidence for the creation and support of biodiverse spaces that are home to birdlife, as this is strongly linked to our mental health. Furthermore, the findings support the implementation of measures to increase the opportunities for people to encounter birdlife, particularly for those living with mental health conditions such as depression. “

Research partner and landscape architect Jo Gibbons, of J&L Gibbons, said, “Who hasn’t tuned in to the melodic intricacies of the chorus of dawn on a spring morning? A multisensory experience that seems to enrich everyday life, whatever our state of mind or where we are.

“This exciting research is at the basis of how much the sight and sound of birdsong lift the spirits. It captures intriguing evidence that a biodiverse environment is restorative in terms of mental well-being. That the sensual stimulation of birdsong, part of those daily “doses” of nature, is precious and 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: The image is in the public domain

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


Momentary smartphone-based ecological assessment reveals the mental health benefits of avifauna

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

In the present study, we used the Urban Mind smartphone application to examine the impact of birds’ sight or hearing on self-reported mental well-being in real-life settings. A sample of 1292 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 worldwide.

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

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