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The Outdoors and Health Network is a one-year collaborative network of researchers and public sector/policy representatives that have come together to examine the relationship between individuals’ health and well-being and their use of the outdoors. The network started in April 2009 and will run for one year. The members are collaborating on a project called “Society’s relationship with the natural world and the role of the outdoors in health and well-being”.


The project consists of three types of activity:

  • Networking events: to exchange knowledge, build a sharing culture within the network and plan coordination between the academics and network partners
  • Project development activities: to assess the current gaps within data and research on the links between outdoor use and health and test out new ways of inter-disciplinary working in this area
  • Proposal writing: networking events will focus on producing proposals for future research that will extend the ideas generated, and tested, through the project development activities.

Although the ‘outdoors’ includes urban spaces such as the street and pedestrian precincts, this project focuses on the ‘natural’ in spaces where people can engage with nature (from private gardens to wilderness spaces). Previous research has investigated the relationship between health and use of the outdoors, but this network provides a new opportunity to connect social scientists with biological and medical researchers. The different disciplines will work together to develop new collaborative ways of working.

Funders and partners

This project has been co-funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Medical Research Council (MRC), under the Understanding Individual Behaviour Exploratory Networks (UIBEN) Programme.

There are currently nine academic institutions and nine other agencies that are members of the Outdoors and Health Network. The Social and Economic Research Group at Forest Research are one of the partners.

UHI Millennium Institute is the lead research organisation for this project and the Sustainable Development Research Centre are coordinating network activities.


For further information contact:

Liz O’Brien

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Liz O'Brien

Principal Social Scientist