Our first academic paper is now in press in the journal Global Environmental Change. (It’s taken a while, we admit — academic publishing is speedy like a sloth in treacle).

Many thanks again to all participants for volunteering the data that makes this research possible. Mappiness is still running, and we intend that this will be the first of many outputs based on the data that have been — and continue to be — contributed via the app

The really short version

Our key finding is there in the title: happiness is greater in natural environments.

The short version

Abstract. Links between wellbeing and environmental factors are of growing interest in psychology, health, conservation, economics, and more widely. There is limited evidence that green or natural environments are positive for physical and mental health and wellbeing. We present a new and unique primary research study exploring the relationship between momentary subjective wellbeing (SWB) and individuals’ immediate environment within the UK. We developed and applied an innovative data collection tool: a smartphone app that signals participants at random moments, presenting a brief questionnaire while using satellite positioning (GPS) to determine geographical coordinates. We used this to collect over one million responses from more than 20,000 participants. Associating GPS response locations with objective spatial data, we estimate a model relating land cover to SWB using only the within-individual variation, while controlling for weather, daylight, activity, companionship, location type, time, day, and any response trend. On average, study participants are significantly and substantially happier outdoors in all green or natural habitat types than they are in urban environments. These findings are robust to a number of alternative models and model specifications. This study provides a new line of evidence on links between nature and wellbeing, strengthening existing evidence of a positive relationship between SWB and exposure to green or natural environments in daily life. Our results have informed the UK National Ecosystem Assessment (NEA), and the novel geo-located experience sampling methodology we describe has great potential to provide new insights in a range of areas of interest to policymakers.

The long version

For subscribers to Global Environmental Change, the full paper is here: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.03.010.

For everyone else, the same content (differently formatted) is freely available here: http://personal.lse.ac.uk/mackerro/happy_natural_envs.pdf.

More detail than we would wish on anybody

Finally, if you’re interested in the absolute nitty-gritty details (e.g. exactly how do we pick the random moments to beep you?), then George’s doctoral thesis is for you.

Media enquiries

For more information on Mappiness and this new paper, please speak to Dr George MacKerron or the LSE Press Office.