SAN FRANCISCO – According to the results of a new study from the University of Michigan, commissioned by the Sierra Club, veterans participating in outdoor group recreation reported improvements in psychological well-being, social functioning and life outlook, suggesting a link between nature exposure and enhanced well-being.
Participants were surveyed before and after a multi-day wilderness recreation experience in groups of six to 12 participants. The excursions emphasized a variety of outdoor activities, from fly fishing and backpacking to kayaking, whitewater rafting and paddling, and generally did not include formal, structured psychological counseling or therapy.
The results suggest many positive impacts for veterans engaging in outdoor activities, including:
- Participation in an extended group outdoor recreation experience may be associated with numerous benefits; compared to pre-outing levels, participants reported improvements in psychological well-being, social functioning and life outlook.
- Participants also reported being more likely to engage in other activities that involved exploration and helping others.
- Findings also suggest that veterans with serious health problems can benefit from group outdoor recreation experiences.
Researchers hypothesize that the benefits of outdoor experiences may be attributable to the fact that participants are involved in physical challenges, camaraderie, and achievement of an objective – all of which correlate with military experience and training.
“The Sierra Club knows anecdotally the mental, emotional and physical benefits that come from spending time in nature, particularly for returning service members for whom the outdoors can be integral to their reintegration,” said Stacy Bare, Sierra Club Mission Outdoors Director. “The results of the University of Michigan’s study reinforce these beliefs and support our efforts to make these types of experiences available to more people.”
“The findings suggest that extended group-based nature recreation can have significant positive impacts on veterans struggling with serious health problems,” said Jason Duvall, a research scientist at the U-M School of Natural Resources & Environment, and one of the study’s lead authors. “Although more research is needed and many questions remain, the use of extended group-based outdoor recreation programs to ease veterans’ transition back into civilian life seems to be a promising approach.”
Veterans were surveyed one week before, one week after, and about one month after participating. In addition to assessing demographic and background information, the survey measured changes in psychological well being, social functioning, life outlook, and activity engagement over time.
To view the complete report, please visit http://www.sierraclub.org/military/downloads/Michigan-Final-Research-Report.pdf.
For more information about the Sierra Club’s programs for military veterans and families, please visitwww.sierraclub.org/missionoutdoors.
About the Sierra Club
The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization with more than 2.1 million members and supporters nationwide. In addition to creating opportunities for people of all ages, levels and locations to have meaningful outdoor experiences, the Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation. For more information, visit http://www.sierraclub.org.
About the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment:
The School of Natural Resources and Environment’s overarching objective is to contribute to the protection of the Earth’s resources and the achievement of a sustainable society. Through research, teaching, and outreach, faculty, staff and students are devoted to generating knowledge and developing policies, techniques and skills to help practitioners manage and conserve natural and environmental resources to meet the full range of human needs on a sustainable basis.http://www.snre.umich.edu