Health & Photography

Over 95% of the world’s population has health problems, with over a third having more than five ailments.

Over 1.2 billion people live with some form of registered disability.

The number of people with disability is dramatically increasing. This is due to demographic trends and increases in chronic health conditions, among other causes.

Almost everyone is likely to experience some form of disability – temporary or permanent – at some point in their life.

A 2017 study estimated that 792 million people lived with a mental health disorder, translating to 10.7% of the global population. More than 15 million people – 30% of the UK population – live with one or more long-term conditions, and more than 4 million will also have mental health problems.

Anxiety affects 284 million people in the world. Depression affects 264 million people. Alcohol use disorder affects 107 million people. Drug use disorder affects 71 million people, as reported by Single Care (2022).

1 in 6 children between 5-16 is likely to have a mental health problem; 17–22-year-old women are the group most at risk of developing a mental health disorder. And in the last three years, the likelihood of young people having a mental health problem has increased by 50%.

Five children in a classroom of 30 likely have a mental health problem. 52% of 17- to 23-year-olds have experienced a deterioration in mental health in the last five years and 32% of those who do get referred into NHS services are not accepted into treatment.

Source: Our World in Data | Credit: IHME – (Global Burden of Disease 2019)

Nearly 800,000 people die by suicide yearly, roughly one death every 40 seconds. Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death worldwide for those aged 15-24 (2019).


Photography is an excellent therapy for many of us, and it has several therapeutic benefits linked to our mental and physical health. In addition, photography can improve our social lives; we meet new people, make new friends, and build our confidence, creativity and self-esteem.

Photography is an excellent therapy for those in drug and alcohol rehabilitation. It’s a change of routine; it keeps our mind focused, keeps us busy, and distracts us from cravings and bad habits during the healing and recovery process. Photography can also help those in recovery to express themselves using photos.

People with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) may benefit from landscape, wildlife and nature photography. Outdoor photography helps to silence bad and negative thoughts, improves relaxation and breathing skills, and reduces isolation, anxiety, depression and hyperventilation attacks.

Credit: Wex Photo & Video

On top of that, landscape, wildlife and nature photography reduces blood pressure, lowers stress, improves overall mood, elevates vitamin D levels, improves sleep, and burns calories. Photography can also open up new job opportunities for the unemployed.

Nature photography is an excellent treatment for mental and physical health. In 2010, scientists analysed and reported a summary of over 100 studies focusing on the effects of art on physical and psychological health in The Connection Between Art, Healing, and Public Health: A Review of Current Literature.

The findings were unequivocal. Photography allows you to express yourself and helps bring focus to positive life experiences, enhances your self-worth, and even reduces the stress hormone cortisol. It turns out that being a shutterbug gives you a perspective in more ways than one.

On November 12th, 2021, Norwich Evening News reported how Richard Walsh, 44, from Norwich, turned his back on drug abuse after taking up photography as a hobby.

Richard’s journey began when he turned to the Matthew Project Next Steps recovery centre in Oak Street at the start of 2020.

He said: “Since starting at the Matthew Project, my life has changed. I thought my life was over and couldn’t have imagined where I am now.

“Addiction is crippling. It is something you don’t notice, but a disease that creeps up on you.

“The hardest thing is to make that first step, look at your life and what is going on around you.

Richard Walsh

“There is always help for people no matter how badly you are affected by addiction, but you have to want to do it yourself.”

Richard said: “For 20 years my identity was partying, drugs and dealing. It was the case of having to change my whole life.

“I was lucky to come out the other side and not end up in jail or worse – dead.

“I’m trying to put back into the services that helped me and saved my life.”

This includes working with young people caught up in County Lines drug dealing and helping homeless people through the Pathways project.

Richard Walsh
Credit: The Matthew Project

On May 1st, 2022, the BBC reported how photography saved the life of Benjamin Warburton, 36, from Northamptonshire. After receiving professional help and support for alcoholism, Benjamin has remained sober since December 2020.

Benjamin explains how he took up aerial photography as a hobby to get him outside of the house. It has now become his passion and his form of “medication”, he said.

“I’ve always suffered with my mental health and it’s progressively got worse the older I’ve got”, Mr Warburton said.

Benjamin Warburton
Source: BBC | Credit: Benjamin Warburton

Twenty-two months ago, Benjamin said his health “physically and mentally” had deteriorated so much that he was sent to hospital to undertake a medically supervised detox.

Since being released from the hospital, he has not touched a drink – but he did not know what to do with the time he now had.

He then used his drone “with the simple intention of it getting me out the house with my sons”.

“Taking it out was a medication for me, getting me out of the house and keeping my mind occupied and off the drink.”

Benjamin Warburton

Alcoholism kills 2.8 million people annually. Globally, one in three people drink alcohol (equivalent to 2.4 billion people), and 2.2% of women and 6.8% of men die from alcohol-related health problems yearly.

In addition to alcoholism, 11.8 million deaths are attributed to substance use each year, and more than 70% of these deaths are related to opioids.

Quitting alcohol and narcotics is the easy part, remaining clean and sober is the most challenging hence why it’s essential to incorporate a change of lifestyle once you’re clean and sober, i.e., photography.

A 2022 study titled: Using Photography to Explore Themes with Readjusting Veterans concluded that a camera is an efficient and accessible tool that can provide a vehicle for veterans to reflect on their feelings and develop mindfulness and hope.

PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is a serious problem affecting many war veterans. A condition once associated most strongly with Vietnam War veterans, the Afghanistan and Iraq war has brought the condition back into the public eye with a vengeance.

Credit: That Ohio Vibe

Symptoms of PTSD range from being easily startled or disturbed, always being on guard for danger, self-destructive behaviour such as drinking too much or driving too fast, trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, irritability, angry outbursts and aggressive behaviour and overwhelming guilt or shame.

According to the National Institute of Health, the VA estimates that approximately 31% of Vietnam vets, 10% of Desert Storm vets, 11% of Afghanistan vets and 20% of Iraq war veterans are affected. And while photography has been used to significant effect to document PTSD in the past, one nurse at the VA in Palo Alto, California, is using it to help treat veterans with the condition.

VA nurse Susan Quaglietti co-founded a six-week workshop program at the VA in Palo Alto that puts cameras in the hands of veterans and gives them “a new focus in their recovery.” Speaking with a local CBS station in SF, she explains that the program is based on “the idea [that] sometimes it’s easier to communicate with a camera than speak face to face with a therapist.”

Photography can also be utilised as an exercise regime. Landscape, wildlife and wedding photography are physically demanding on the body if done right. A physically demanding shooting project can burn up to 200 calories an hour.

Photography can help develop a child’s learning skills across the curriculum and enable them to build an understanding of themselves, others and the world around them. In addition, photography can help relieve children’s stress, boredom and anxiety.

Photography has also been proven to be a complete success with people suffering from Autism that finds it challenging to communicate. Verbal communication can be an area of difficulty for people with autism. Using a camera can be an alternate communication method; most children love it.

Photography for children offers a range of exciting and valuable learning experiences, not to mention some great experiences. The benefits include:

  • learning a new skill, which can boost children’s self esteem
  • encouraging planning and presentation skills
  • allowing children to display their potential through creativity
  • providing children with the opportunity to be innovative
  • giving children the opportunity to communicate their ideas, thoughts and feelings
  • stimulating children to develop their own ideas on design
  • relaxing children with behavioural and developmental problems

If you’re considering buying a camera for your child to help them cope with the chronic symptoms of Autism, there are a few things to consider first, such as:

  • Durability: Choose a robust camera that can withstand a lot of shock, the sturdier the better.
  • Battery life: Most children love to view images through the viewfinder; however, this can drain the battery quickly. Long-life batteries are best. A rechargeable battery is helpful, but it is often best to have two as you may not be near an electrical outlet when you need to recharge.
  • Memory size: Often, once an image is downloaded to a computer or elsewhere and deleted from the camera, children do not bother to look at the pictures again. The more you can store on the camera directly, the more they will be accessed.
  • Manual dexterity: Most budget cameras are small in size. This shouldn’t pose any problems, but the buttons’ size may be an issue. Check the grip of the camera as well.
  • Less is more: Most children will use the automatic features and may not be as inclined to experiment with other settings. Therefore, keep it simple for the first year, and experiment with an updated camera if your child becomes more experimental and knowledgeable about photography.
  • Cost: Most cameras on the market are expensive; however, don’t go for the newer version. Older cameras or used models are just as good.
Credit: The Kelly Clarkson Show

Photography can also be a “distraction and coping mechanism” for those suffering from neurological conditions such as Tourette Syndrome and tic disorders. Tourette affects one school child out of every 100 in the U.K.

Back in 2016, Tourette’s sufferer and keen photographer Paul Stevenson won the heart of the nation when he appeared on TV’s Employable Me.

The BBC Two documentary followed some of Britain’s most extraordinary job seekers as they proved that having Tourette’s syndrome or autism should not make them unemployable.

And viewers saw how a creative flare lies beneath Paul’s tics and outbursts.

Paul, 56, showed his keen eye for detail makes him a brilliant photographer.

It was a hobby he picked up after his diagnosis and allowed him to open a whole new world in which he could lose himself.

His wife Carol suggested he take up the hobby, and he now spends his time capturing beautiful Northumberland landscapes, wildlife and pictures of his children.

Dad-of-four Paul left school with no qualifications and worked as a gardener and a nightclub doorman; he moved to Berwick 12 years ago to be near his parents and took up window cleaning.

After being diagnosed with Tourette’s, Carol, 44, who works in special educational needs at a local school, suggested her husband take up photography to get him out of the house and build his confidence.

And in the TV episode, experts were keen to see more of his photos to sell to potential clients as Paul hopes to turn his hobby into a profession.

Paul said: “I get a lot of pleasure from taking photographs. I can walk outside with a camera; it cuts the anxiety down.”

Paul Stevenson

He has also had success in competitions, winning the Northeast heat of the Sony World Photography Awards and coming second in the UK event. His work formed part of an exhibition in London.

Paul also won a competition run by a national newspaper, while a shot of his son earned him first place in one organised by an American magazine.

He is always eager to help fellow sufferers he meets at regular support group meetings.

Paul runs photography workshops for people with the condition to help them by unleashing their creativity.

“It has worked for me, and it has worked for a few other people,” he said.

Paul Stevenson


There’s more to photography than taking a picture.

Contrary to popular belief, photography can improve balance, posture, muscle toning and mindful breathing.

Photography that requires much physical exercise, such as wedding, landscape, travel, and sports photography, can burn up to 200 calories an hour, strengthen bones and muscles, and improves your ability to do everyday activities.

The camera is also an excellent vehicle for those suffering from CPTSD, PTSD, depression, OCD, OCB, anxiety disorders, and neurological and adolescent behavioural disorders.

Photography aids creative thinking and distracts us from social and economic pressures, life problems and harmful habits such as alcohol and substance misuse.

Photography also offers a range of exciting and valuable learning experiences for young and older children. However, it’s important to note that children would benefit more from photography if taught from a young age.

Photography is an excellent tool for creative expression. Your interests or passions can attract you to a subject, and your camera becomes the instrument for your creative exploration. You can show yourself and others how you feel or think about an issue as you make your images; creative expression is excellent for those that find it difficult to talk to others about deep-rooted problems such as bullying, chronic depression, etc.

Creativity is a vital skill that students need to be successful in school and life. It helps with problem-solving, contributes to satisfaction in life, stimulates curiosity, helps students to use their imagination more, fosters self-expression, encourages curiosity, teaches observation, and helps embrace perfection.

Taking a photograph can help you to process hard times – and make them beautiful. So if you want to use your camera skills to channel your feelings and find a moment of stillness, you might just be engaging in self-care that could help promote better mental well-being both now and in the future.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful, for more information drop me a line here.

Thank you for reading.

Published by J. J. Williamson

Prints, frames, stock images and portrait services.

One thought on “Health & Photography

  1. My friend shared this post with me today for my autistic son. Thanks, it’s beneficial. My son was diagnosed with autism in 2018 and it’s been a constant uphill struggle to find something to keep him stimulated. I’ll look at buying him a camera this week.

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