Woodland walks 'save the NHS £185million a year', says study

Woodland walks ‘save the NHS £185million a year’ due to mental health and wellbeing benefits, says study

  • The figure is likely to be an underestimate, according to Forest Research
  • Visits to outdoor green spaces for at least 30 minutes can reduce depression 
  • Based on annual cost of £1,640 to the NHS to treat a patient with depression

The mental health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in woodlands saves the NHS around £185million a year, a study claims.

The figure is likely to be an underestimate, according to the report’s authors, Forest Research.

The study was based on 2016 research that found weekly visits to outdoor green spaces of at least 30 minutes can reduce the prevalence of depression in the population by 7 per cent.

The mental health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in woodlands saves the NHS around £185million a year, a study claims (file photo)

The researchers then used more recent woodland visitor figures to calculate the cost to the NHS if mental health problems among those going to forests regularly were to increase by 7 per cent.

The final figures were based on an estimated annual cost of £1,640 to the NHS to treat a patient with depression and £705 for someone with anxiety.

It takes into account visits to the GP, prescription costs, inpatient care, social services and the number of working days lost to mental health issues.

The figure is likely to be an underestimate, according to the report’s authors, Forest Research (file photo)

One of the main drivers of the wellbeing boost from visiting woodlands is likely to come from the physical exercise involved, as well as benefits more difficult to measure from practices such as ‘forest bathing’, or mindful walks alongside activities such as meditative breathing exercises.

The health service is set to spend £14.3billion on mental health care in 2020/21, said NHS England.

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