Uni Essex Report: Health and wellbeing impacts

The health and wellbeing impacts of volunteering with The Wildlife Trusts


Muddy Fork are featured in new research from the University of Essex, adding more evidence of benefits to mental wellbeing from volunteering with nature.

The report studied six projects, including Muddy Fork (as "Recovery" before we became an independent charity).  As well as providing solid evidence for the effectiveness of outdoor volunteering for mental health improvement, the report shows the main motivations of attendees - very useful information for anyone managing a service like Muddy Fork.

Some of the most important findings are:

  • Statistically significant improvements in mental wellbeing

  • 95% of participants with low wellbeing reported an improvement at 6 weeks

  • Wellbeing remains heightened with continued attendance

The motivation evidence is very useful for making sure we keep our service attractive to attendees:

  • New starters were motivated by ‘improving the natural environment’, ‘improving fitness’, ‘learning new skills’, ‘being part of a group’, ‘conservation activities’, ‘being outside in nature’ and ‘improving mental health’

  • After 12 weeks, the importance to attendees’ of ‘conservation activities’ and ‘learning new skills’ increased the most, indicating that they could be key drivers of attendance

Perhaps most important:

  • Successfully accessing individuals with low levels of personal wellbeing

Low mental wellbeing and common mental health disorders make it very hard to do anything and joining a new group is particularly challenging.  This is welcome confirmation that nature volunteering is sufficiently attractive to overcome these barriers.

You can find a link to the report on the Muddy Fork website Publications page.