A bunch of ecologists, psychologists, and economists from Griffith University have estimated that collectively, national parks save $6 trillion (US) in mental health costs around the world. That’s a lot of cash money.

For most Explorers, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to read that spending time in nature is good for your mental health. The fresh air and blue sky (when bushfires aren’t raging), the tweeting of birds and the disconnection from those pesky screens that seem to control our lives, can come as a huge mental relief, even if only for a short time. But who knew that national parks are saving the world a mammoth amount in mental health costs? These guys. 

The study compared the psychological benefits of visiting national parks to the expenses of poor mental health across 20,000 people in three different groups. And boy oh boy, all those trips to the nasho are doing us a world of good. 

The study looked at improved cognition, stress relief, reduced anxiety and depression as well as sleep and found clear correlations between those who regularly visit national parks and those with better mental health. 

How did they figure that figure?

The $6 trillion economic value was determined when researchers factored in the amount of money countries spend on mental health care and treatment, antisocial behaviour and lack of productivity in the workplace. They also examined the quality-adjusted life years of the three groups – an economic tool used to measure the value of medical care in reducing a person’s mental and physical pain.

What if we invested more in national parks?

Unfortunately, this $6 trillion figure is two to three times larger than the amount of money globally invested into these parks and protected area tourism more broadly. 

‘Human economies have underinvested severely in nature conservation, despite the high value of ecosystem services, because these services have been provided free of charge,’ the study says. 

Imagine the social benefits if investment into these parks was equivalent to the amounts that they currently save us… 

Feature photo by Lisa Owen