the role of outdoor learning in helping young people build back post pandemic.

New York – March 20, 2023

Outward Bound International, the coordinating organization for Outward Bound which is the leading provider of outdoor education programs around the globe, has just released its “Building Back” report which outlines in detail and with alarming statistics the impact of the pandemic on the mental health of young people around the world. In this report, Outward Bound quantifies how deep the mental crisis caused by the pandemic runs for young people, using data gathered from various surveys conducted all over the world.

According to a UNESCO Report, 1.6 billion students and 63 million primary and secondary school teachers in 191 countries were affected by school closures caused by the pandemic. These closures have had a significant impact on the mental health of young people, who have faced social isolation, disrupted education, and uncertainty about the future.

How do we begin to build back from the pandemic, and how do we help young people all over the world gain the skills and confidence to thrive during these uncertain times? At Outward Bound we believe we must provide young people with opportunities to connect with their own true potential, their communities, and the outdoors.

Outward Bound programs offer a unique opportunity for young people to take a break from their daily lives and engage in outdoor activities that challenge them physically, mentally, and emotionally. By participating in these programs, young people can learn new skills, develop resilience, and build relationships with others in a safe and supportive environment. These experiences can help to improve their self-esteem, reduce anxiety and depression, and develop coping skills to manage stress and uncertainty.

The Outward Bound Trust UK has found that when questioned, young people who have been on their programs post-pandemic reported the following:

  • 92% said their mood improved
  • 81% said their motivation increased
  • 81% felt more confident they could overcome challenges in the future

Students on Outward Bound USA courses recently reported statistically significant, positive changes for 12 separate social-emotional skills and non-cognitive skills that range from self-regulation to the ability to work in diverse groups–skills that are closely connected to mental health.

“Group relationships” had the greatest magnitude of change, of the social-emotional skills measured.

These findings likely indicate that Outward Bound programming was responsive to the needs of students who were coming out of social isolation due to the pandemic and seeking opportunities to socialize, and that Outward Bound programming is likely buffering the impact of the pandemic on participants.

Outward Bound Canada’s Social Return on Investment (Bain & Company) found that the resiliency gains of Outward Bound programs were linked to a lower risk of future anxiety and depression, generating approximately $1.7 million in societal savings on mental healthcare costs and about $5 million in increased workplace productivity.


As the world recovers from the worst of the pandemic, Outward Bound is putting young people first, prioritizing their mental well-being through re-connection with nature and strengthening connections with others.

About Outward Bound:

Outward Bound is the leading provider of outdoor education programs around the globe, an enduring educational initiative established over 80 years ago. Developed in response to the challenges that young people were facing at that time, Outward Bound’s model of authentic and intense learning journeys in the outdoors continues to prepare young people to deal with life’s challenges and the complex, changing realities of their world. The innovative Outward Bound pedagogy has spread to a diversity of geographic regions and cultures. The flexibility and efficacy of the model for promoting social-emotional and intercultural learning is reflected by its adoption in 35 countries across 6 continents and by evidence of success accumulated over eight decades in culturally diverse settings.

About Outward Bound International: 

Outward Bound International (OBI) is the coordinating organization of the global network of Outward Bound Schools. In its global coordinating role, OBI influences policy and practice across the worldwide network, a community of schools that serves over 150,000 people across 6 continents annually. OBI’s mission is to: “enable our member schools to be more effective and more resilient.” OBI’s strategic vision is for a “stronger worldwide network of more effective and resilient Outward Bound Schools; Schools which run programs that change lives for the better.”

Outward Bound International is grateful to Manulife, The John Templeton Foundation and The Sweetgrass Foundation for their generous support; support which ensures that our member Schools around the globe can continue to provide powerful outdoor learning that provides a multitude of health and well-being benefits for both individuals and society.

To learn more:

Outward Bound International contact: Sarah Wiley, Strategic Projects Manager [email protected]  +1-416-986-5886


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