IWUN- explore the links between natural environments in urban settings and mental wellbeing

IWUN is a ground-breaking project funded by the Natural Environment Research Council to explore the links between natural environments in urban settings and mental wellbeing. It is led by a team in the Department of Landscape at the University of Sheffield, along with colleagues in the University of Derby and Heriot-Watt University, and a range of practice partners.

The central aim of the research project is to find out how Sheffield’s natural environment affects the health and wellbeing of the city’s residents, especially of those in deprived areas and who suffer from mental ill-health. This includes researching the links between biodiversity and wellbeing, how people experience urban nature, what kind of spaces they find helpful and what actions will best strengthen those links. The project would also like to understand how the benefits of nature can be used more efficiently in clinical practice.

There project consists of four work packages. The first is “a place based analysis of population level linkages between natural environments, health inequality, deprivation and green space usage”. Work package two focuses on different people’s understanding of nature particularly through culture and values, this has been measured through in depth interviews and conducting nature based interventions. The third work package focuses on how people notice nature which has been measured using the schmap app. Finally, work package four focuses on “how characteristics of the natural environment beneficial to wellbeing can be delivered in practice” and this will form the bases of the focus group meeting.

The Centre for Sustainable Healthcare’s (CSH) role in the project is to provide our expertise and advice from having worked at the interface of greenspace and health for the last 10 years and to publicise the results from the project through our clinical networks and events. We have also contributed to the running of the national IWUN conference and the focus group which will determine clinician’s thoughts of natural spaces and wellbeing, how best to engage their patients in using them, what information from the research project is useful and how it can be publicised to ensure that there is maximum uptake by medical staff.