Being with the birds “linked to mental well-being”

According to scientists, watching birds or listening to birdsong can boost mental well-being, with effects lasting up to eight hours.

The findings, published in Scientific Reports, come from real-time reports from participants from around the world, including those diagnosed with depression.

The researchers said their work shows the potential role birdlife could play in helping people with mental health problems.

Andrea Mechelli, Professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN), King’s College London, and senior author of the study, said: “Our study provides a basis of evidence to create and support spaces of biodiversity that are home to birdlife, as this is strongly linked to our mental health.

“In addition, 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.”

For the study, the researchers used data from the Urban Mind app, developed by King’s College London, landscape architects J&L Gibbons and the Nomad Projects art foundation.

More than 1,000 participants worldwide completed the assessments during the study period, which ran between April 2018 and October 2021.

Volunteers were asked three times a day if they could see or hear the birds, followed by questions about mental well-being.

The team found that among those diagnosed with mental health conditions, bird’s eye hearing or sight was associated with improvements in mental well-being.

A similar effect was also seen in healthy people, with improvements lasting up to eight hours, the team said.

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

Lead author Ryan Hammoud, research assistant at 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 improve our mood.

“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.”

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