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Anxiety and mood linked to bird diversity

The range of avian species living near you could have a major impact on wellbeing and mental health, according to a new study.

Data estimating bird diversity in Michigan, US, was cross-referenced with anxiety and mood disorder hospitalisations for the same area, spanning an 11-year period. 

flock of bird flying in sky

According to the results, lower levels of diversity lead to a significant increase in hospitalisations, which the team responsible argue adds more evidence to the growing understanding that biodiversity loss is closely related to the mental health crisis in humans. 

Seen in this way, researchers led by Dr Rachel Buxton, Assistant Professor at the Institute of Environmental and Interdisciplinary Sciences at Carleton University, believe it is vital to look beyond ideas like urban greening alone within planning and development. 

‘Often we consider nature as representing the amount of green space near homes or the distance to the nearest park, but the link between species diversity and health is underexplored,’ said Buxton. ‘Our study shows that if species diversity can affect mental health at the severe end of the spectrum (hospitalisations), it is possible that the decline in biodiversity across the globe may be intricately connected with our anxiety and mood on a day-to-day basis.

‘It is critical we take a holistic approach to our mental health and nature. Investing in nature should not be viewed as a luxury, but a necessity, and evaluated in the context of the support for wellbeing it offers individuals and communities living in urban or nature-scarce environments,’ she continued. ‘Restoring and conserving diverse bird communities could be one avenue to improving mental health in cities and factored into urban restoration projects and public health policies.’

More on biodiversity:

Climate chaos gardening: Embracing regenerative practices and protective design

Biodiversity monitoring is possible, just look at air quality

Tool can identify pressures on plants to prevent extinction

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