Nature-Based Social Prescribing in Urban Settings to Improve Social Connectedness and Mental Well-being: a Review

Curr Environ Health Rep. 2019 Dec;6(4):297-308. doi: 10.1007/s40572-019-00251-7.


Purpose of review: Recent reports of a "loneliness epidemic" in the USA are growing along with a robust evidence base that suggests that loneliness and social isolation can compromise physical and psychological health. Screening for social isolation among at-risk populations and referring them to nature-based community services, resources, and activities through a social prescribing (SP) program may provide a way to connect vulnerable populations with the broader community and increase their sense of connectedness and belonging. In this review, we explore opportunities for social prescribing to be used as a tool to address connectedness through nature-based interventions.

Recent findings: Social prescribing can include a variety of activities linked with voluntary and community sector organizations (e.g., walking and park prescriptions, community gardening, farmers' market vouchers). These activities can promote nature contact, strengthen social structures, and improve longer term mental and physical health by activating intrapersonal, interpersonal, and environmental processes. The prescriptions are appropriate for reaching a range of high-risk populations including moms who are minors who are minors, recent immigrants, older adults, economically and linguistically isolated populations, and unlikely users of nature and outdoor spaces. More research is needed to understand the impact of SPs on high-risk populations and the supports needed to allow them to feel at ease in the outdoors. Additionally, opportunities exist to develop technologically and socially innovative strategies to track patient participation in social prescriptions, monitor impact over time, and integrate prescribing into standard health care practice.

Keywords: Loneliness; Nature-based; Psychosocial processes; Social connectedness; Social isolation; Social prescriptions.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Gardening
  • Humans
  • Loneliness / psychology
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Recreation / psychology*
  • Relaxation Therapy / psychology*
  • Social Isolation / psychology*
  • Urban Population
  • Walking / psychology
  • Young Adult