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Art, Nature and Mental Health: Assessing the biopsychosocial effects of a ‘creative green prescription’ museum programme involving horticulture, artmaking and collections

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journal contribution
posted on 29.05.2020, 08:47 by Linda Thomson, Nuala Morse, Elden Esme, Helen Chatterjee
Aims: To assess the biopsychosocial effects of participation in a unique, combined arts- and nature-based museum intervention, involving engagement with horticulture, artmaking and museum collections, on adult mental health service users. Methods: Adult mental health service users (total n = 46 across two phases) with an average age of 53 were referred through social prescribing by community partners (mental health nurse and via a day centre for disadvantaged and vulnerable adults) to a 10-week ‘creative green prescription’ programme held in Whitworth Park and the Whitworth Art Gallery. The study used an exploratory sequential mixed methods design comprising two phases – Phase 1 (September to December 2016): qualitative research investigating the views of participants ( n = 26) through semi-structured interviews and diaries and Phase 2 (February to April 2018): quantitative research informed by Phase 1 analysing psychological wellbeing data from participants ( n = 20) who completed the UCL Museum Wellbeing Measure pre–post programme. Results: Inductive thematic analysis of Phase 1 interview data revealed increased feelings of wellbeing brought about by improved self-esteem, decreased social isolation and the formation of communities of practice. Statistical analysis of pre–post quantitative measures in Phase 2 found a highly significant increase in psychological wellbeing. Conclusion: Creative green prescription programmes, using a combination of arts- and nature-based activities, present distinct synergistic benefits that have the potential to make a significant impact on the psychosocial wellbeing of adult mental health service users. Museums with parks and gardens should consider integrating programmes of outdoor and indoor collections-inspired creative activities permitting combined engagement with nature, art and wellbeing.


This study was conducted as part of the Not So Grim Up North project funded by Arts Council England (2015-2018; Grant: 29250851). The GROW Projectand the Whitworth’s creation of the Art Gardenhas been funded by Jo Malone,London



Thomson, L., Morse, N., Elsden, E., & Chatterjee, H. (2020). Art, nature and mental health: assessing the biopsychosocial effects of a ‘creative green prescription’ museum programme involving horticulture, artmaking and collections. Perspectives in Public Health. https://doi.org/10.1177/1757913920910443


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