Researchers have found that people who live in neighborhoods with a lot of birds, trees, and shrubs were less likelier to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression.
In a study published in the journal BioScience, researchers from the University of Queensland, the British Trust for Ornithology, and the University of Exeter showed that benefit was observed regardless if the subjects lived in urban or leafier suburban communities as long as they were able to see birds, trees, and shrubs.
More than 270 people were surveyed about their mental health for the study, ranging in age, ethnicities, and income levels. According to results, subjects who didn’t spend a lot of time outside than usual during the week prior were likelier to report depression or anxiety.
Birdwatching And Mental Health
The researchers did not find a connection between bird species and mental health. Rather, the mental health benefits the subjects reported were more tied to the number of birds seen, and not their type. Common birds observed during the study, however, include crows, blue tits, robins, and blackbirds.
The researchers also extensively surveyed bird numbers in the morning and afternoon in Luton, Bedford, and Milton Keynes and discovered that lower levels of stress, anxiety, and depression were linked to the number of birds that people saw in the afternoon. Afternoon bird numbers were also used for the study because they were more aligned with what people were likely to see daily in their neighborhood.
Earlier works have said that most people actually can’t identify specific bird species, suggesting that birdwatching’s mental health benefits are related to interaction with birds in general and not specific birds.
“This study starts to unpick the role that some key components of nature play for our mental well-being,” said Daniel Cox, study lead. He referred to birds as “making cities healthier, happier places to live.”
Carried out as part of the Fragments, Functions, Flows and Ecosystem Services project and funded by the Natural Environmental Research Council, the study also received contributions from Kevin Gaston, Steven Hancock, Karen Anderson, Richard Fuller, Gavin Siriwardena, Kate Plummer, Hannah Hudson, and Danielle Shanahan.
Animals And Human Mental Health
In 2016, a study claimed that cats can be blamed for certain psychiatric disorders. However, another one released in February disputed this claim, saying that University College London researchers did not find links between felines and psychotic symptoms. The older study highlighted the natural cat parasite Toxoplasma gondii as being associated with mental health issues such as schizophrenia and psychosis.
Researchers from the second study also went on to suggest that cat ownership while pregnant or during early childhood does not come with direct risks for psychotic symptoms later. However, they did point out that there is evidence showing that exposure to T. gondii while pregnant can cause serious birth defects as well as other health conditions in children, advising pregnant women to avoid handling dirty kitty litter as it can contain the parasite.
In the United States, some 60 million people are estimated to be infected with T. gondii, making them candidates for toxoplasmosis. However, because the body’s immune system is hard at work keeping the parasite’s effects at bay, many don’t show symptoms of the disease, which may include swollen lymph glands, muscle aches, blurred vision, and eye redness.
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