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

  • M. A. Leavell
  • J. A. Leiferman
  • M. Gascon
  • F. Braddick
  • J. C. Gonzalez
  • J. S. LittEmail author
Built Environment and Health (M Nieuwenhuijsen and A de Nazelle, Section Editors)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Built Environment and Health


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.


Social prescriptions Nature-based Social connectedness Loneliness Social isolation Psychosocial processes 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. A. Leavell
    • 1
  • J. A. Leiferman
    • 2
  • M. Gascon
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • F. Braddick
    • 6
    • 7
  • J. C. Gonzalez
    • 6
  • J. S. Litt
    • 1
    • 8
    Email author
  1. 1.University of Colorado BoulderBoulderUSA
  2. 2.Colorado School of Public HealthUniversity of Colorado DenverDenverUSA
  3. 3.ISGlobalBarcelonaSpain
  4. 4.Universitat Pompeu Fabra (UPF)BarcelonaSpain
  5. 5.CIBER Epidemiología y Salud Pública (CIBERESP)MadridSpain
  6. 6.Agència de Salut Pública de Catalunya (ASPCAT)BarcelonaSpain
  7. 7.Hospital Clínic de BarcelonaBarcelonaSpain
  8. 8.Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)BarcelonaSpain

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