Research shows Aussie camps boost mental health

A new study by the Outdoor Youth Programs Research Alliance (OYPRA) developed and conducted over nine years has shown camps and outdoor education programs can lead to improved mental health and wellbeing in young people. OYPRA is an alliance of researchers led by the Centre for Adolescent Health (Murdoch Children’s Research Institute) together with Australia’s top universities, state governments, not-for-profit community organisations, and key representatives from the outdoor industry.

The world-first research of 335 Year 9 students (aged 14-16), which included a control-group of students who did not participate on camp; found that those suffering from higher levels of anxiety were less anxious and more resilient after school camp. Furthermore, OYPRA’s research found that students benefited from improved confidence after attending camp, particularly their self-efficacy: belief in their ability to achieve goals. The research found:

  • Of those who participated in the research program, 16 per cent of students suffered higher levels of anxiety, however were significantly less anxious after the 5-day outdoor program.
  • OYPRA found that 11 per cent of students surveyed had low levels of self-efficacy; however following a 5-day school camp their confidence levels were significantly boosted.

OYPRA spokesperson Pete Griffiths said the findings should assist policymakers in solving the issue of rising anxiety and mental illness in young Australians, with almost a quarter (23%) of young people aged 15 to 19 showing symptoms of probable serious mental illness according to Mission Australia, up from 19% five years ago.

“There’s always been an understanding that outdoor learning is good for us – now we know that camps support better mental health and more resilient young Australians,” Mr Griffiths said.

“More and more Australian children and teenagers are suffering mental health issues and battling low self-esteem, OYPRA’s research confirms that camps offer a real solution in supporting healthy kids.”

“Those who attend camps are challenged, get active, become immersed in nature, are guided by experienced outdoor leaders and form stronger friendships all of which support improved mental health.”

OYPRA hopes the important research will support policymakers achieve better outcomes in both health and education initiatives. As more technology is integrated into the education system and home life, there is a need now more than ever to balance the way young Australians learn by getting them outdoors.

Read more about research findings here.

Key messages

  • A new study developed over nine years by OYPRA found school camps can reduce anxiety and boost the confidence of young Australians.
  • OYPRA members include the Royal Children’s Hospital, University of Melbourne, Deakin University, the Victorian Government, and peak outdoor program groups.
  • The world-first research will help inform better policy and practice, and lead to more strategic investment in Australia’s outdoor programs for learning, healthy living and positive youth development.


With support from the Australian Research Council, Outdoor Youth Programs Research Alliance (OYPRA) was founded in 2009 to undertake a long-term program of high quality research that evaluates the benefits of outdoor, camping and nature-based programs on the resilience, learning and wellbeing of young Australians. OYPRA is funded through an Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Grant with matched industry partner contributions.

OYPRA members include: the Royal Children’s Hospital, Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, University of Melbourne, Deakin University, University of Oregon USA, the Australian Camps Association, the State Government of Victoria, the Outdoor Education Group, the Outdoor Council of Australia, YMCA Victoria, Outdoors Victoria, Operation Newstart, United Church Camping and Outward Bound Australia.

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Camping in nature helps ease pupils stress | Herald Sun

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