The Evidence: The nature of mental health

Today The Evidence goes green as Claudia Hammond and her panel of experts discuss plant power, how nature and the natural environment affect our mental health.

Produced in collaboration with Wellcome Collection and recorded in front of a live audience in the Reading Room at Wellcome in London, the programme addresses that widely-held view, even intuition, that plants and nature directly impact on our emotional wellbeing.

As always, Claudia and her panel of experts are interested in the evidence behind such beliefs, and as they reveal, proving this link scientifically, is fiendishly difficult.

The evidence base is growing (especially studies which show being in nature improves your mood) and there is much emerging research which gives tantalising glimpses into exactly which elements in nature could help to produce that green feel-good factor (and which elements can actually make us feel worse).

On stage at Wellcome, Tayshan Hayden-Smith, a 25 year old semi-professional footballer shares how he first put his hands in the soil after the Grenfell Tower fire in North Kensington in London five years ago, when 72 people lost their lives and left his community traumatised.

Tayshan tells Claudia that nature saved him, and many others, as they planted seeds, re-claimed spaces and built new gardens in the aftermath of the tragedy. All children and young people, he says, should have access to the healing power of nature and he calls on the horticultural establishment to open its doors much wider to enable this to happen.

Beth Collier too, believes that nature should be a meaningful part of everyday life for all. The connection with nature, she says, is fundamental to healing mental distress. A psychotherapist and ethnographer, Beth founded Wild in the City to encourage those who live in urban environments, especially people of colour, to re-connect with nature.

Claudia’s other guests are Kathy Willis, former Director of Science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, now Professor of Biodiversity at the University of Oxford and author of a soon-to-be-published book called Prescribing Nature and Birgitta Gatersleben, Professor of Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey and a leading researcher studying the relationship between the natural environment and human wellbeing.

Produced by: Fiona Hill and Maria Simons
Studio Engineers: Duncan Hannant and Emma Harth

(Photo: Footpath through a forest
Credit: Nik Taylor/UCG/Universal Images Group/Getty Images)
28 May 2022 English United Kingdom Science

Other recent episodes


James Gallagher reports on a psychedelic renaissance; a new wave of research testing hallucinogenic drugs like magic mushrooms to treat mental health conditions. There’s genuine excitement and some early encouraging evidence. A manufacturer tells James that in five years’ time, it’s possible that psychedelics could be part of the medicine…
5 Jun 27 min

Fungal Pandemic Threat

We’re familiar with fungal infections like Thrush and Athlete’s foot, but fungal diseases that can kill are on the increase. The World Health Organisation is so concerned that it’s published its first ever list of life threatening fungi. In this edition of Discovery, James Gallagher hears stories of hospitals being…
29 May 29 min

Food Insecurity

Soaring food prices mean putting food on the table is a daily struggle. This is the grim reality for millions around the world. But hunger, so long a feature in lower-income countries, is becoming a familiar picture in richer ones too. James Gallagher reports from the UK, one of the…
22 May 28 min

Maggots in medicine

After centuries of use in wound-healing, the maggot is back. The rise of the drug-resistant superbug means fresh eyes are focused on the superpowers of the larvae of the greenbottle fly species, Lucilia Sericata. James Gallagher reports on the healthcare professionals who are turning to maggot therapy to help clean…
15 May 28 min

Lazy guide to exercise

James Gallagher is on a mission to find out what is the least amount of exercise you can do to still stay healthy. James goes on a Ramblers wellbeing walk, uses a treadmill for the first time and takes a hot bath all to find out how lazy he can…
8 May 31 min