A smartphone app for improving mental health through connecting with urban nature

Kirsten McEwan, Miles Richardson, David Sheffield, Fiona J. Ferguson, Paul Brindley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)
97 Downloads (Pure)


In an increasingly urbanised world where mental health is currently in crisis, interventions to increase human engagement and connection with the natural environment are one of the fastest growing, most widely accessible, and cost-effective ways of improving human wellbeing. This study aimed to provide an evaluation of a smartphone app-based wellbeing intervention. In a randomised controlled trial study design, the app prompted 582 adults, including a subgroup of adults classified by baseline scores on the Recovering Quality of Life scale as having a common mental health problem (n = 148), to notice the good things about urban nature (intervention condition) or built spaces (active control). There were statistically significant and sustained improvements in wellbeing at one-month follow-up. Importantly, in the noticing urban nature condition, compared to a built space control, improvements in quality of life reached statistical significance for all adults and clinical significance for those classified as having a mental health difficulty. This improvement in wellbeing was partly explained by significant increases in nature connectedness and positive affect. This study provides the first controlled experimental evidence that noticing the good things about urban nature has strong clinical potential as a wellbeing intervention and social prescription.
Original languageEnglish
Article number3373
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 12 Sept 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • mental health
  • wellbeing
  • green space
  • mobile app
  • nature connectedness
  • social prescription
  • urban


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