People get just as much extra life satisfaction from living in an area with plenty of bird species as they do from getting a pay raise, a study has claimed.
Many past small-scale studies have suggested that exposure to nature is good for one’s mental health – and the Covid-19 pandemic has increased interest in the outdoors.
Experts from Germany cross-referenced survey data on the life satisfaction of thousands of adults from across Europe with their exposure to nature.
“Europeans are particularly satisfied with their lives if their immediate surroundings host a high species diversity,” said the paper’s co-author and ecologist Joel Methorst of the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre in Frankfurt.
“According to our findings, the happiest Europeans are those who can experience numerous different bird species in their daily life, or who live in near-natural surroundings that are home to many species.”
In their study, Methorst and his colleagues compared data on the reported quality of life of more than 26 000 adults from across Europe with the diversity of bird species in each subject’s local area.
Birds, the researchers explained, are a good indicator of overall biological diversity and the availability of green spaces and water – and are one of the most noticeable and animate aspects of nature, especially in more urbanised settings.
“We also examined the socioeconomic data of the people who were surveyed,” explained the paper’s co-author and biologist Katrin Böhning-Gaese, also of the Senckenberg research centre.
“Much to our surprise, we found that avian diversity is as important for their life satisfaction as their income is,” she said.
In fact, the team found that having 14 additional bird species in the local area gave as much satisfaction as an annual salary raise of £1 344 would to someone earning an income of £13 380.
Nature, the researchers conclude, is important to the public’s wellbeing.
“Biological diversity is currently undergoing a dramatic decline. This poses the risk that human wellbeing will also suffer from an impoverished nature,” noted Methorst.
“Nature conservation therefore not only ensures our material basis of life, but it also constitutes an investment in the wellbeing of us all,” he concluded. – MailOnline