Studies suggest that the evidence on the restorative effects of green spaces, and contact with nature, is more compelling than the evidence on the potential benefits for physical health. While it is well known that access to or views of open space can help to improve patient recovery times helping to improve care time at hospitals and the amount of medication that patients require, research has shown that individuals who have some nearby vegetation or live closer to open space seem to be more effective in managing major life issues, coping with poverty, and performing better in cognitive tasks.

Interestingly, in its 2007 report Ecotherapy, the mental health charity Mind identified that people who experience mental distress frequently used physical activity such as walking and gardening to reduce stress and vulnerability to depression. ‘Ecotherapy’ is the name given to the green agenda for mental health whereby people are engaged in green exercise activities as part of their treatment programme. 

The report identifies that taking part in outdoor activities can help to develop motivation, raise self esteem and reduce isolation. Of particular relevance is a small-scale study evaluating the effects of walking or cycling in a group in a country park as opposed to walking or cycling in a group in an urban area. They found that walking and cycling in the different settings provoked different responses in terms of self-esteem and mood and that being near nature had a more positive effect. In fact, overall, ‘90 per cent of people who took part in Mind green exercise activities said that the combination of nature and exercise is most important in determining how they feel.’ 

There is also growing evidence that some behavioural or emotional problems in children, such as attention deficit disorder, can be improved by exposure to green space. Studies have shown that the  quality of and access to public green space had a direct correlation on the severity of children’s ADD.