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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13(3), 255; doi:10.3390/ijerph13030255

The Effects of Forest Therapy on Coping with Chronic Widespread Pain: Physiological and Psychological Differences between Participants in a Forest Therapy Program and a Control Group

1
Stress Research Institute, Inje University, Seoul 100-032, Korea
2
Department of Rheumatology, Uijeongbu St. Mary’s Hospital, Catholic University, Uijeongbu 480-717, Korea
3
Department of Psychiatry, Seoul Paik Hospital, Inje University School of Medicine, Seoul 100-032, Korea
These authors contributed equally to this work.
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editors: Agnes van den Berg and Jenny Roe
Received: 13 November 2015 / Revised: 6 February 2016 / Accepted: 6 February 2016 / Published: 24 February 2016
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Abstract

This study aimed to investigate the effects of a two-day forest therapy program on individuals with chronic widespread pain. Sixty one employees of a public organization providing building and facilities management services within the Seoul Metropolitan area participated in the study. Participants were assigned to an experimental group (n = 33) who participated in a forest therapy program or a control group (n = 28) on a non-random basis. Pre- and post-measures of heart rate variability (HRV), Natural Killer cell (NK cell) activity, self-reported pain using the visual analog scale (VAS), depression level using the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and health-related quality of life measures using the EuroQol Visual Analog Scale (EQ-VAS) were collected in both groups. The results showed that participants in the forest therapy group, as compared to the control group, showed physiological improvement as indicated by a significant increase in some measures of HRV and an increase in immune competence as indicated by NK cell activity. Participants in the forest therapy group also reported significant decreases in pain and depression, and a significant improvement in health-related quality of life. These results support the hypothesis that forest therapy is an effective intervention to relieve pain and associated psychological and physiological symptoms in individuals with chronic widespread pain. View Full-Text
Keywords: chronic widespread pain; forest therapy; autonomic nervous system; NK cell activity; depression; quality of life chronic widespread pain; forest therapy; autonomic nervous system; NK cell activity; depression; quality of life
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).

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MDPI and ACS Style

Han, J.-W.; Choi, H.; Jeon, Y.-H.; Yoon, C.-H.; Woo, J.-M.; Kim, W. The Effects of Forest Therapy on Coping with Chronic Widespread Pain: Physiological and Psychological Differences between Participants in a Forest Therapy Program and a Control Group. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2016, 13, 255.

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