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Mountains and mental wellbeing

The outdoors as a cure for depression

My mountaineering buddy Andy and I climbed Helvellyn in the Lake District recently. We got to talking about what it is we love about mountains - what do they give us. They certainly raise my spirits and make me feel glad to be alive. Whatever it is, it's worth big money.

The World Health Organisation predicts depression will be the second greatest cause of ill health globally by 2020. New figures published reveal that depression is costing the UK economy over £9bn a year in lost earnings, an increase of £4bn since 1999. The Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health estimates the total cost of mental distress in a single year in England alone at £77 billion. One in four of us will directly experience mental health problems.

A study by Essex University on behalf of the mental health charity, Mind, showed that tension, depression and self esteem all improved when subjects went for an outdoor walk, rather than an indoor one. Is it conceivable that a therapeutic intervention that can substantially reduce the human and other costs of mental distress is available on our doorsteps?

A simple walk in the hills? Or another fine example of the great service Nature provides to humanity.


This is just one of the stories from my environmental talks

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