Spending time outdoors may improve veterans` mental health
Washington: Veterans who participate in outdoor excursions enjoy better mental health than their peers who are confined indoors, according to a new study.
Veterans were surveyed before and after a multi-day wilderness recreation experience, which involved camping and hiking in groups of between six and 12 participants. More than half of participants reported that they frequently experienced physical or mental health problems in everyday life.
One week after the experience, veterans reported a greater than 10 percent improvement in several measures of psychological well-being, a 9 percent increase in social functioning, and a nearly 8 percent gain in positive life outlook. In some cases, the results persisted over the next month.
"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 and Environment and one of the study`s lead authors.
Veterans may identify more strongly with activities outdoors that involve physical challenge, camaraderie and achievement of an objective - experiences that are shared with their military service. As a result, the approach used by these programs may be more appealing than conventional clinical treatments when it comes to dealing with mental health issues.
"The excursions are a supportive environment because in many ways, they recreate many positive aspects of the military experience," Duvall said. "They are outside, in a group, sharing similar mental models and, in a sense, on a mission. In that scenario, the impact of the natural environment might be heightened."
"Veterans with more serious health problems seemed to benefit most," Duvall said.
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