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Veterans Benefit From Group Outdoor Recreational Activities

Significant improvements in psychological well-being, social functioning, life outlook

TUESDAY, July 30 (HealthDay News) -- For veterans, participation in group-based outdoor recreational activities correlates with benefits in psychological well-being, social functioning, and life outlook, according to a study published by the University of Michigan for the Sierra Club Military Families and Veterans Initiative.

Jason Duvall, Ph.D., and Rachel Kaplan, Ph.D., from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, examined the potential benefits of veterans' participation in multi-day group-based outdoor recreational activities. Ninety-eight veterans were recruited and surveyed one week before, one week after, and about one month after participation in a four- to seven-day group outdoor recreation experience. Changes in psychological well-being, social functioning, life outlook, and activity engagement over time were assessed.

The researchers found that there were a number of significant benefits associated with participation in group outdoor recreation experiences. One week after the outdoor experience, significant improvements were reported in psychological well-being, social functioning, and life outlook; there were indications that these improvements persisted at one month. After the outdoor experience, participants reported being more likely to participate in activities that involved exploration and to listen to and help others. Veterans who initially reported more severe on-going health issues had particularly strong changes in psychological well-being, social functioning, life outlook, and activity engagement.

"The findings suggest that extended group-based nature recreation experiences can have significant positive impacts on veterans struggling with serious health problems," the authors write. "This approach is especially intriguing since many veterans may find nature recreation programs more appealing than conventional clinical treatments."

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