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J Rehabil Res Dev. 2014;51(5):685-96.

Enhancing the well-being of veterans using extended group-based nature recreation experiences.


Physical and mental health issues associated with military service persist as challenges for many veterans. This study draws on existing research showing the value of engaging in nature-based recreation to examine the effects of such experiences on veterans specifically. Four organizations, offering 12 different programs each lasting 4–7 d, were included in the study. Ninety-eight veterans were recruited and surveyed 1 wk before, 1 wk after, and approximately 1 mo after participating in these extended group-based outdoor experiences. In addition to background information, the survey instrument assessed changes in psychological well-being, social functioning, and life outlook. The results showed significant improvements in each of these domains 1 wk after the outdoor experience. Some improvements persisted over the next month, but to a lesser degree. The positive changes were particularly strong for veterans who initially reported more severe ongoing health issues. Overall, the findings suggest that extended group-based nature recreation experiences that bring veterans together can have significant positive effects on veterans struggling with serious health problems.

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