What does the evidence say about social prescribing and mental health?
Mental health conditions are one of the main reasons for referrals to social prescribing services. We have published an evidence note on social prescribing and mental health, summarising what is currently known.
The evidence included suggests that:
- Social prescribing can play an important role in addressing common mental health difficulties.
- Befriending services, practical information including financial advice, community activities, arts and culture activities, physical activities, and activities that involve or take place in nature can help alleviate loneliness, stress, mild to moderate depression and anxiety.
- While there is a lot of varied evidence to show the benefits of social prescribing, more research is needed – particularly with the groups of people most likely to experience mental health conditions, and with children and young people.
One study cited in our evidence note found that engaging in holistic, structured activities allowed people with long-term mental health conditions to feel able to help improve their own situation and care.
Another suggested that social prescribing can improve social connectedness and belonging, particularly when social prescriptions work alongside community organisations.
Other research recognised the role that social prescribing link workers can play in providing support for people with mental health conditions. People who accessed social prescribing services valued the fact that link workers had the time to get to know them as individuals, talk to them about their situation, and base their referrals on what matters to them.
Many of the projects supported by our Thriving Communities Fund support the mental health of participants. From nature walks to walking football, archaeological societies to art classes, the projects bring people together to do activities that can have a positive impact on wellbeing and reduce loneliness.
The cross-Government Green Social Prescribing programme, which we are part of, also enables people to connect to activities that benefit mental health.
Evaluations of Thriving Communities and the Green Social Prescribing programme will add to the evidence base over the coming months.