Research finds nature sounds ‘benefit mental health’

Research has found the sounds of nature could help people’s mental health.

Data was collected from more than 7,500 people as part of the BBC series Forest 404 – a podcast that depicts a world without nature.

Participants reported sounds of birdsong provided relief from stress and mental fatigue, the study found.

The University of Exeter’s leading researcher, Alex Smalley, said lockdown helped people rediscover “the natural sounds around them”.

Therapeutic effects

“Our findings suggest that protecting these experiences could be beneficial for both mental health and conservation behaviour, but they also provide a stark warning that, when it comes to nature, memories matter.

“If we hope to harness nature’s health benefits in the future, we need to ensure everyone has opportunities to foster positive experiences with the natural world today,” he said.

Participants listened to a range of environments, from English coasts and woodlands to the tropical rainforests in Papa New Guinea.

Therapeutic effects were reported from listening to landscape sounds such as breaking waves or falling rain.

When no wildlife sounds were played, the positive psychological benefits reduced, with participants showing motivation to protect the world’s ecosystems.

The study was a collaboration between the BBC Natural History Unit, BBC Radio 4, Exeter University, Bristol University and the Open University.