How might natural sounds boost our wellbeing?

3 min read

An new collaborative initiative between researchers and BBC Radio 4 aim to investigate the therapeutic properties of sound and specifically, how the British public respond to nature-based sounds.

Focusing on a range of environments, a new experiment led by the University of Exeter in partnership with BBC Radio 4 aims to explore how immersion in ‘digital nature’ could be used to improve health and wellbeing. It’s hoped the study’s findings will form the basis for bringing the benefits of nature to people who might not be able to access them, such as patients in hospital, older people in long term care, or those who work in stressful situations.

“Could simply listening to birdsong or waves lapping on the beach be enough to help people recover from a stressful situation? The effects won’t be the same for everyone, so we want as many people as possible to take part and help us uncover what works and why.”

Alex Smalley, lead researcher and Virtual Nature PhD student
Photo by Oleksandr Pidvalnyi on

Anyone over the age of 18 can take part in the experiment, which is available online at

The experiment will be one of the largest of its kind and has launched alongside an new BBC Radio 4 podcast, called Forest 404. Set in the 24th century, the sci-fi thriller follows a sound archivist who uncovers recordings of natural spaces from the early 21st century that no longer exist. Alongside each episode sits a factual discussion which guides listeners through different themes of the drama and an experimental soundscape.

You can listen to BBC Radio 4’s Forest 404 on BBC Sounds and take part in the experiment here.

The project is a research partnership between BBC Radio 4, BBC Natural History Unit, University of Bristol, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, The Open University, and the University of Exeter.

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