Mental health benefits of outdoor adventures: Results from two pilot studies

J Adolesc. 2016 Jun:49:105-14. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2016.03.009. Epub 2016 Mar 31.


This paper investigates potential mental health benefits of outdoor and adventure education programs. It is argued that experiences made in successful programs can increase self-efficacy, mindfulness and subjective well-being. Furthermore, programs may reduce feelings of time pressure and mental stress amongst participants. Evidence comes from two pilot studies: In the school project "Crossing the Alps" (Study 1), 14-year-old participants reported an increase in life satisfaction, mindfulness and a decrease in the PSQ Subscale 'demand' after a successful nine-day hike through the German, Austrian, and Italian Alps. In the university project "Friluftsliv" (Study 2) participants scored higher in life satisfaction, happiness, mindfulness, and self-efficacy and lower in perceived stress after having spent eight days in the wilderness of the Norwegian Hardangervidda region, miles away from the next locality. The findings suggest that outdoor education and wilderness programs can foster mental health in youths and young adults.

Keywords: Adventure education; Mindfulness; Resilience; Self-efficacy; Well-being.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Emotional Adjustment*
  • Female
  • Happiness
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mindfulness
  • Personal Satisfaction
  • Pilot Projects
  • Psychological Tests
  • Recreation / psychology*
  • Self Efficacy
  • Stress, Psychological / prevention & control
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult