Forest bathing and hiking benefits for mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic in Mediterranean regions

Anna Muro*, Corel Mateo, Eva Parrado, Montse Subirana-Malaret, Montserrat Moya, Adrià Garriga, Josep Canals, Andrés Chamarro, Antoni Sanz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)
2 Downloads (Pure)

Abstract

Forest bathing (FB) has evidenced positive effects on individuals’ mental health and well-being, but its benefits have mainly been studied in Asian biomes. The present study aimed to evaluate whether its benefits are also generalisable to other forests and biomes of the world, such as the Mediterranean. Eighty-six healthy adults of the general population were assessed before and after a FB near Barcelona (Spain) during the COVID-19 pandemic. A control-hiking group of participants was also analysed to contrast the FB effects on anxiety, affect, mood states and mindfulness. Results show that the guided practice of FB in Mediterranean-Catalan forests increases mindfulness states and positive affect and reduces anxiety and negative affect, with effect sizes being large to very large. Hiking also induced significant changes in all variables tested, but FB showed higher effect sizes. An exploratory analysis also revealed a different profile of the FB participants compared to the hiking practitioners, being highly educated women living in urban areas and with lower basal levels of psychological well-being. Accordingly, it is concluded that both Mediterranean FB and hiking (to a lesser degree) might be cost-effective strategies to promote and restore psychological well-being after the COVID-19 pandemic and to promote sustainable tourism in Mediterranean biomes of the European forested and protected areas.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)415-426
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Journal of Forest Research
Volume142
Issue number2
Early online date3 Feb 2023
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2023

Keywords

  • COVID-19
  • Forest bathing
  • Mediterranean forests
  • Mental health
  • Well-being

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