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Scientists prove living with birds improves mental health

shutterstock 525211762WATCHING BIRDS NEAR your home helps combat mental health problems by lowering levels of depression, anxiety and stress, new research suggests.

An international team from the University of Exeter and British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) in the UK, University of Queensland, Australia, and University of Maryland in America surveyed 270 people of different ages, incomes and ethnicities living in Milton Keynes, Bedford and Luton.

Using a shorter version of the Depression, Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS), respondents rated how 21 statements applied to them during the previous week using a four-point scale. Researchers then measured five components of nature that people were exposed to around the home, including extensive bird surveys to record avian abundance during early mornings and afternoons.

Results showed that those living in neighbourhoods with more birds, shrubs and trees were less likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and stress. Afternoon bird numbers, which tend to be lower than species seen in the morning, were studied because these were more in line with figures that people will see daily.

In addition, the researchers found no evidence of a relationship between the species of birds spotted – such as blackbirds, robins, blue tits and crows – and mental health.

Instead, they discovered a link between the number of species seen from a window, garden or in the respondents’ neighbourhood.

Lead author Dr Daniel Cox said: “This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental wellbeing. Birds around the home, and nature in general, show great promise in preventative health care, making cities healthier, happier places to live.”

The study is published in the journal Bioscience.

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