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Why being around birds boosts mental well-being

Seeing or hearing birds provides a lift to mental health - with the boost lasting for up to eight hours, according to the findings.

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Portrait of a kid girl with her domestic parrot
(ESB Professional via Shutterstock)

By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Being around birds makes people feel chirpy - boosting mental well-being, according to a new study.

Seeing or hearing birds provides a lift to mental health - with the boost lasting for up to eight hours, according to the findings.

Researchers used a phone app called Urban Mind. People were asked three times a day whether they could see or hear birds, and afterwards they responded to questions about their mental wellbeing.

Study lead author Ryan Hammoud, of King’s College London, said: “There is growing evidence on the mental health benefits of being around nature and we intuitively think that the presence of birdsong and birds would help lift our mood.

“However, there is little research that has actually investigated the impact of birds on mental health in real-time and in a real environment.

“By using the Urban Mind app we have for the first time showed the direct link between seeing or hearing birds and positive mood.

“We hope this evidence can demonstrate the importance of protecting and providing environments to encourage birds, not only for biodiversity but for our mental health.”

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, took place between April 2018 and October 2021.

It involved more than 1,200 participants who took part and completed over 26,800 assessments using the app. These participants were mainly based in the UK, the EU and the US.

via GIPHY

The study also collected information on existing diagnoses of mental health conditions such as depression. Through their findings they found that hearing and seeing birdlife improved the mental health of people with and without depression.

Researchers showed that this link was not due to other environmental factors such as being around trees and water ways.

Senior author Professor Andrea Mechelli, of 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 prove these benefits scientifically.

“Our study provides an evidence base for creating and supporting biodiverse spaces that harbor birdlife, since this is strongly linked with our mental health.

“In addition, the findings support the implementation of measures to increase opportunities for people to come across birdlife, particularly for those living with mental health conditions such as depression.”

Jo Gibbons, research partner and landscape architect from J & L Gibbons, added: “Who hasn’t tuned into the melodic complexities of the dawn chorus early on a spring morning? A multi-sensory experience that seems to enrich everyday life, whatever our mood or whereabouts.

“This exciting research underpins just how much the sight and sound of birdsong lifts the spirits. It captures intriguing evidence that a biodiverse environment is restorative in terms of mental wellbeing. That the sensual stimulation of birdsong, part of those daily ‘doses’ of nature, is precious and time-lasting.”

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