Study finds birds improve mental health


Researchers at King's College London have investigated the mental health benefits of daily encounters with birds.

In light of their findings, the researchers pointed out the importance of boosting biodiversity and preserving bird habitats.

All 1,292 participants of the study were prompted to record their mood in an app at random times during the day, as well as whether they could see trees or birds, or hear birdsong.

Almost 1,300 participants recorded their moods on an app when seeing birds (Nick Clayton).

The two-week study involved volunteers from across the UK and Europe, China, Australia and the USA. Average mental wellbeing scores were positively related to encounters with birds and increases in score persisted beyond the sight or sound of birdlife.

Andrea Mechelli, professor of early intervention in mental health at King's College London, said: "We need to create and support environments, particularly urban environments, where bird life is a constant feature. To have a healthy population of birds, you also need plants, you also need trees. We need to nurture the whole ecosystem within our cities."

The benefits of encounters with birds were evident in people both with and without mental health issues (Chris Young).

The study found that the benefits of experiencing birds were clear in people with depression as well as individuals without mental health issues. This is significant because interventions which improve mood in the general population don't usually improve the condition of people with a diagnosed condition.

Explaining the power of using birds for treating depression, Michelli added: "We know exercise makes everyone feel better. But it's incredibly challenging to motivate someone with depression to exercise. Whereas contact with bird life is something that, perhaps, is feasible."

Nomad Projects, an independent commissioning foundation for artists, helped King's College London develop the app for the study. Michael Smythe, an artist from the foundation, raised the potential relationship between mental health disparities and access to nature.

Adrian Thomas, author of the RSPB Guide to Birdsong, said: "Birdsong would have once been the natural soundtrack to all human lives, and I do think that it is embedded somewhere deep within our psyches. It is associated with spring and renewal and good times coming, which is just one of the reasons why we need to address this nature crisis and ensure that nature doesn’t fall silent."

The researchers suggested that doctors could prescribe visits to areas rich in birdlife to patients suffering from depression and other mental health conditions.



Hammoud, R, Tognin, S, Burgess, L, and 7 others. 2022. Smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment reveals mental health benefits of birdlife. Scientific Reports. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-022-20207-6