Accessibility statement

Natural Environments and Mental Health

Hand holding a globe in a woodland setting

This theme focuses on the inter-relationship between our natural environment and mental health. It is an interdisciplinary and pan-faculty collaboration between academic partners at York and with external stakeholders in the NHS and public sector. Our work in this space is supported by the York Environmental Sustainability Institute which facilitates environmental sustainability research across the sciences, social sciences, and arts and humanities, adding value and synergizing existing strengths to tackle the complex challenges of sustaining productive, resilient and healthy environments. Additionally, our work addresses the strategic challenge to embed sustainability into research and teaching and campus operations through Environmental Sustainability at York.

Central to this research theme is work on evaluating the clinical and cross-sectoral effectiveness of nature-based interventions to support childhood, adolescent, and adult mental health. Nature-based interventions involve a wide range of activities such as social and therapeutic horticulture (using gardening, food growing and plants to support wellbeing); care farming (involving the therapeutic use of agricultural landscape and farming practices); and environmental conservation (involving activities designed for conservation and management of natural places for health and wellbeing).

Another core area of interest is research that develops a deeper understanding about the pathways through which exposure to and connection with natural environments can support mental and also physical health. This includes work to develop models of association and causation about the relationship between distance, access, and engagement with nature and mental health. This foundational knowledge is key to developing effective nature-based interventions that can confer environmental and health co-benefits.

Published research

Coventry, P. A., Brown, J. E., Pervin, J., Brabyn, S., Pateman, R., Breedvelt, J., ... & White, P. L. (2021). Nature-based outdoor activities for mental and physical health: Systematic review and meta-analysis. SSM-population health, 16, 100934

Coventry, P. A., Neale, C., Dyke, A., Pateman, R., & Cinderby, S. (2019). The mental health benefits of purposeful activities in public green spaces in urban and semi-urban neighbourhoods: A mixed-methods pilot and proof of concept study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(15), 2712

Coventry, P., & White, P. C. L. (2018). Are we ready to use nature gardens to treat stress-related illnesses? British Journal of Psychiatry, 213(1), 396-397

Cruz, J., Li, G., Aragon, M. J., Coventry, P. A., Jacobs, R., Prady, S. L., & White, P. C. (2022). Association of environmental and socioeconomic indicators with serious mental illness diagnoses identified from general practitioner practice data in England: A spatial Bayesian modelling study. PLoS medicine, 19(6), e1004043

Cruz, J., White, P. C. L., Bell, A., & Coventry, P. (2020). Effect of extreme weather events on mental health: a narrative synthesis and meta-analysis for the UK. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 

Darcy, P., Taylor, J., Mackay, L., Ellis, N., & Gidlow, C. (2022). Understanding the Role of Nature Engagement in Supporting Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 19(7), [3908] 

Darcy, P. M., Jones, M., & Gidlow, C. (2019). Affective Responses to Natural Environments. Physical Activity in Natural Settings: Green and Blue Exercise, 124  

Hinde, S.; Bojke, L.; Coventry, P. The Cost Effectiveness of Ecotherapy as a Healthcare Intervention, Separating the Wood from the Trees. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 11599 

Geneshka, M.; Coventry, P.; Cruz, J.; Gilbody, S. Relationship between Green and Blue Spaces with Mental and Physical Health: A Systematic Review of Longitudinal Observational Studies. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 9010

Lahart, I., Darcy, P., Gidlow, C., & Calogiuri, G. (2019). The Effects of Green Exercise on Physical and Mental Wellbeing: A Systematic Review. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, [16(8)]

Lahart, I., Darcy, P. M., Gidlow, C., & Calogiuri, G. (2019). Known knowns: A systematic review of the effects of green exercise compared with exercising indoors. Physical Activity in Natural Settings, 36-74

Humber and North Yorkshire Green Social Prescribing

Female holding garden rubbish bags

An evaluation of the Humber and North Yorkshire ‘test and learn’ site, exploring green social prescribing and impacts on mental health outcomes.  

Co-designing Nature-based Interventions For children with ADHD Study (CONIFAS)

A co-production study exploring how nature-based activities can be used to help children with ADHD. 


Hut in woodland

A YESI funded study testing the health and wellbeing benefits of heritage, crafting and nature. 

West Yorkshire Green Social Prescribing 

Hand holding earth

An evaluation of a green social prescribing initiative led by the West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership, and in partnership with University of Central Lancashire.

 UKRI Closing the Gap Network+


A UKRI funded collaborative programme dedicated to growing partnerships to understand and address why people with severe mental illness have some of the worst physical health issues of any section of the population. 

Transforming environmental research into evidence on the cultural and health benefits of green and blue space

Abstract image

A project funded through the NERC Integrated Catchment Solutions Programme (iCASP) which aims to understand how to best use evidence to support greater access to and engagement with local green and blue spaces.

Connected Treescapes

Looking at sky through trees

A UKRI funded research project focusing on the role that trees and woodlands play in and around the UK’s towns and cities, including their current and future importance for biodiversity and health and wellbeing under different climate change scenarios.