FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 26, 2012
Rebecca Silver, Sierra Club, 212.791.3600 x284, email@example.com
Kevin Merrill, University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and Environment, 734.417.7392, firstname.lastname@example.org
U-M, Sierra Club to study
links between outdoor experience, veterans’ mental health
SAN FRANCISCO – For six years, the Sierra
Club has organized outdoor trips for American military service members, veterans and their
families. Now, the national environmental group is working with the University of
Michigan on a research project to measure how those trips affect veterans’
individual mental health.
at the School of Natural Resources and Environment (SNRE) will analyze the
results of surveys given to about 120 veterans before and after upcoming six-day
excursions. While scientific research increasingly shows a strong link between
mental and health benefits and the natural environment, the Sierra Club wanted
to know if its programs, which are offered at no or reduced costs, were
producing the same results.
“The Sierra Club
has been organizing outings with military families and veterans for years, and we
know anecdotally from participants that outdoor experiences have been vital to
their reintegration,” said Stacy Bare, National Military Families and Veterans Representative for Sierra Club.
“Securing quantitative data that reinforces these beliefs will support our
efforts to make these types of experiences available on a larger scale.”
research work at U-M are SNRE Professor Rachel Kaplan and research scientist
“The overall objective of this
research is to explore whether contact with the natural environment is
associated with improvements to mental health and psychological functioning of
veterans,” Kaplan said.
The project will take about 18 months
to complete, but started last fall when the surveys were written and tested.
The veteran’s excursions begin in March.
selective process, Sierra Club chose four partner organizations to execute
quality outdoor experiences: Higher Ground (Sun Valley, Idaho); Wasatch
Adaptive Sports (Snowbird, Utah); Wilderness Inquiry (Minneapolis, Minn.); and
Women’s Wilderness Institute (Boulder, Colo.). Each outing will provide at least four days of
an outside experience. Some programs are free, while others require the
participant to cover transportation and up to $100 for tuition.
vary from fly fishing, kayaking and whitewater rafting to backpacking and
paddling. There are two courses specifically for female veterans, and one for
military spouses, partners or caregivers. For dates and contact information,
“By now the
empirical literature is substantial with numerous studies documenting the
diversity of health and well-being benefits related to the nearby natural
environment,” Kaplan said. “Studies examining the impact of wilderness
experiences have suggested that more extended nature experiences can also offer
important benefits. Given these potential benefits, exposure to natural
environments and outdoor recreation may be particularly helpful to military
veterans and active duty personnel since studies indicate that these
individuals are more likely to experience serious mental health issues, such as
depression and PTSD.”
The Sierra Club and its partner
organizations will collect and maintain the data and administer the surveys.
This process is designed to assure that U-M researchers cannot identify the
participants. Participants will be asked to complete a survey about one-week
prior to the recreation experience. Short-term changes in psychological health,
social health and coping/problem-solving abilities will be assessed by asking
participants to complete a survey a week after the experience.
To assess whether changes were
sustained, a second post-test will be given three to four weeks after the
excursion. The pre-test, initial post-test and second post-test will be
administered using an online survey tool.
“How durable are any changes? Does the
kind of program matter? Is the composition of the group important? Does the
benefit of an outdoor program relate to the veterans’ military experiences?”
Kaplan asked. “We expect this research to be a useful step in exploring such
Family and Veterans Initiative:
Club's Military Family and Veterans Initiative (MFVI), formerly Military
Families Outdoors (MFO) is part of Mission Outdoors, the Sierra Club’s campaign
to provide access to outdoor experiences to people of all ages and
backgrounds. MFVI makes available a
variety of opportunities for American Military Service Members, Veterans, and
their families to experience the freedom of the land they defend. http://www.sierraclub.org/military/
About the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment:
The School of
Natural Resources and Environment's overarching objective is to contribute to
the protection of the Earth's resources and the achievement of a sustainable
society. Through research, teaching, and outreach, faculty, staff and students
are devoted to generating knowledge and developing policies, techniques and
skills to help practitioners manage and conserve natural and environmental
resources to meet the full range of human needs on a sustainable basis. http://www.snre.umich.edu