Growing Resilience through Interaction with Nature (GRIN)
Well-being is fundamental for health. However, health and well-being are under threat by increased prevalence of depression and physical inactivity. Interaction with the natural environment may prevent these critical health issues, as research has shown that walking outdoors contributes to better well-being than walking indoors. The aim of this thesis was to investigate outdoor group walks as a potential public health intervention to enhance positive mental and emotional well-being, reduce stress, and foster resilience. This thesis evaluated Walking for Health, a national group walking programme in England using a nonexperimental, longitudinal design. Individuals who did (Group Walkers) and did not (Non-Group Walkers) take part in outdoor group walks completed two online questionnaires about their mental and emotional well-being, and covariates. To gain a broader understanding of how outdoor group walks may contribute to positive well-being, integrations were proposed between the Attention Restoration Theory and the psycho-evolutionary model, and the theories of coping and resilience. Findings show that Group Walkers had greater mental well-being and positive affect, and less negative affect, depression and perceived stress than Non-Group Walkers. Group walking had no affect on social well-being, connectedness to nature or resiliency. Outdoor group walk participation affected positive well-being through a decrease in perceived stress, and an increase in physical activity. Group Walkers demonstrated resilience against adversity on negative affect. No evidence of resilience from outdoor group walks was found for mental well-being, positive affect or depression. Group walks in farmland and green corridor environments may further boost mental well-being, and reduce negative affect and perceived stress, when compared to group walks in the urban environment. This research suggests that outdoor group walks are effective at improving mental and emotional well-being, and could be a useful public health intervention to reduce stress and foster resilience. Implications for theory are discussed.
- PhD