Bird song and mental health

Two studies examine the relationship between hearing bird song and the state of one’s mental health:

Smartphone-based ecological momentary assessment reveals mental health benefits of birdlife

by Ryan Hammond and nine others, in Nature-Scientific Reports, 27 October 2022.


The mental health benefits of everyday encounters with birdlife for mental health are poorly understood. Previous studies have typically relied on retrospective questionnaires or artificial set-ups with little ecological validity. In the present study, we used the Urban Mind smartphone application to examine the impact of seeing or hearing birds on self-reported mental wellbeing in real-life contexts. A sample of 1292 participants completed a total of 26,856 ecological momentary assessments between April 2018 and October 2021. Everyday encounters with birdlife were associated with time-lasting improvements in mental wellbeing. These improvements were evident not only in healthy people but also in those with a diagnosis of depression, the most common mental illness across the world. These findings have potential implications for both environmental and wildlife protection and mental healthcare policies. Specific measures, aimed at preserving and increasing everyday encounters with birdlife in urban areas, should be implemented.

Birdsongs alleviate anxiety and paranoia in healthy participants

by E. Stobbe and three others, in Nature-Scientific Reports, 13 October 2022.


The present study investigated the effect of urban (traffic noise) vs. natural (birdsongs) soundscapes on mood, state paranoia, and cognitive performance, hypothesizing that birdsongs lead to significant improvements in these outcomes. An additional goal was to explore the differential impact of lower vs. higher diversity of the soundscapes by manipulating the number of different typical traffic sounds or songs of different bird species within the respective soundscapes. In a randomized online experiment, N = 295 participants were exposed to one out of four conditions for 6 min: traffic noise low, traffic noise high, birdsong low, and birdsong high diversity soundscapes. Before and after the exposure, participants performed a digit-span and dual n-back task, and filled out depression, anxiety, and paranoia questionnaires. The traffic noise soundscapes were associated with a significant increase in depression (small effect size in low, medium effect size in high diversity condition). Concerning the birdsong conditions, depression exclusively decreased after exposure to the high diversity soundscape (small effect size). Anxiety and paranoia significantly decreased in both birdsong conditions (medium effect sizes). For cognition, no effects were observed. In sum, the present study suggests that listening to birdsongs regardless of diversity improves anxiety, while traffic noise, also regardless of diversity, is related to higher depressiveness. Moreover, for the first time, beneficial, medium-sized effects of birdsong soundscapes were demonstrated, reducing paranoia. Overall, the results bear interesting implications for further research, such as actively manipulating soundscapes in different environments or settings (e.g., psychiatric wards) and testing their effect on subclinical or even clinical manifestations of anxiety and paranoia.

Here is an article in the Washington Post of May 18, 2023 with some further information about both studies, bird sounds included: