The theme for Mental Health Awareness Week is loneliness. Now in its 22nd year, this annual event is an opportunity for the whole of the UK to focus on achieving good mental health for all.

New research data by the Mental Health Foundation from 1,000 adults in Scotland reveals a quarter of adults in Scotland (25%) felt lonely some or all of the time over the previous month. This report explores what it’s like to be lonely: its causes, consequences and the groups of people who are more likely to experience severe and enduring loneliness. We look at the strong links between loneliness and mental health.

The results suggest that hundreds of thousands of people’s mental health are harmed by loneliness, yet more than one third (39%) of those surveyed say they would never admit to being lonely, and 27 per cent say they felt ashamed about being lonely.

Over one third of those surveyed stated that improving the quality of public green spaces. i.e., cleanliness, safety, and/or accessibility can help tackle loneliness. 

We know that our sense of connection to nature is fundamental to our mental health, and research shows that less green space coincides with feelings of loneliness and a perceived lack of social support.

The report notes that 'getting out of the house’ across all ages groups feeling that it had helped them with their mental health when they were feeling lonely. Recognising that high quality public green spaces are ideal environments for connecting with friends and family as well as hosting community based groups  exercise referral programmes and other social prescribing opportunities. 

At the same time recognising the barriers that poorly maintained parks and greenspaces can have on noticing and connecting with nature. The report notes that these barriers are more likely to be the reality for green spaces in deprived areas, particularly in city and urban areas. 

The Foundation’s 2021 Mental Health Awareness Week campaign found 69% of Scottish adults said that connecting with nature has been important in terms of managing their mental health during the pandemic. However, the poll did not find universal access highlighting a significant gender gap. Not feeling physically safe/safe from harm had hindered 26% of UK women from enjoying nature,
compared to 9% of UK men. 

The report makes 4 greenspace recommendations:

  1. The Scottish Government and local authorities engage with local communities to develop naturally diverse, safe, and accessible public green space.

  2. Local authorities work with communities to develop plans to improve the quality and stewardship of green and blue spaces as part of their Open Space Strategy.

  3. Local authorities introduce accurate and regular reporting requirements on the levels of cleanliness, safety and accessibility of parks and beaches.

  4. Urban housing plans increase availability of green space

Read the report

The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival (SMHAF) is exploring the theme ‘Gather’ as it returns to live audiences across Scotland for the first time since 2019. Running from 4 – 24 May 2022, SMHAF is hosted by the Mental Health Foundation (MHF).

Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival programme

At greenspace scotland we believe greenspace is our natural health service and the Health pages on the website highlight our work  with NHS Lothian, Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation and a wide range of partners demonstrating the positive impact that greenspaces can have on physical and mental health.