Need and Interest in Nature Prescriptions to Protect Cardiovascular and Mental Health: A Nationally-Representative Study With Insights for Future Randomised Trials
Heart Lung and Circulation
Objective: “Nature prescriptions” are increasingly being adopted by health sectors as an adjunct to standard care to attend to health and social needs. We investigated levels of need and interest in nature prescriptions in adults with cardiovascular diseases, psychological distress and concomitants (e.g. physical inactivity, sedentary behaviour, obesity, loneliness, burn-out). Methods: A nationally-representative survey of 3,319 adults across all states and territories of Australia was completed in February 2021 (response 84.0%). Participants were classified across 15 target groups using validated health indicators and surveyed on (1) time and frequency of visits to green and blue spaces (nature spaces), (2) interest in a nature prescription, and (3) potential confounders (e.g. age, income). Analyses were done using weighted logistic regressions. Results: The sample was 50.5% female, 52.0% were aged ≥45 years, 15.2% were living alone and 19.3% were born overseas in non-English-speaking countries. Two-thirds of the sample spent 2 hours or more a week in nature, but these levels were generally lower in target groups (e.g. 57.7% in adults with type 2 diabetes). Most participants (81.9%) were interested in a nature prescription, even among those spending fewer than 2 hours a week in nature (76.4%). For example, 2 hours a week or more in nature was lowest among sedentary adults (36.9%) yet interest in nature prescriptions in this group was still high (74.0%). Lower levels of nature contact in target groups was not explained by differences in access to or preference for local nature spaces. Conclusions: High levels of interest in nature prescriptions amid low levels of nature contact in many target health groups provides impetus for developing randomised trials of interventions that enable people to spend more time in nature. These findings can inform intervention co-design processes with a wide range of community stakeholders, end-users in target health groups, and the health professionals who support them.
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