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Special Issue "Health Benefits of Nature"

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A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2014)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Mardie Townsend (Website)

School of Health and Social Development, Deakin University, 221 Burwood Highway, Burwood, Vic. 3125, Australia
Fax: +61 3 9244 6261
Interests: the links between human health and contact with nature/natural environments; ecological/social sustainability and health; including climate change and its impacts on health; social capital and its influence on health; and building healthy housing and neighbourhoods

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Over recent years, there has been a growing acknowledgement of the importance of nature and the natural environment as a determinant of human health and wellbeing. While the World Health Organization attributes more than 25% of the world’s disease burden to environmental factors, this figure really only refers to the impacts of environmental degradation – pollution, resource depletion, loss of species diversity, climate change and the like. In fact, in developed societies, the issue of environmental deprivation is at least as important as environmental degradation. Research has shown that separation from nature is implicated in declining physical, mental, social and spiritual wellbeing. This issue will highlight research evidence to confirm such links, as well as strategies which have been, are being or could be applied to address the problems associated with nature deprivation and/or to capitalise on human links with nature. Research papers, analytical reviews, case studies, reflections on practice (clinical or non-clinical), policy analysis and frameworks for action are solicited.

Dr. Mardie Townsend
Guest Editor

Submission

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. Papers will be published continuously (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are refereed through a peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed Open Access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1600 CHF (Swiss Francs).

Keywords

  • environmental degradation
  • environmental deprivation
  • nature deficit disorder
  • healthy parks, healthy people
  • parks and health
  • green spaces and health
  • gardens and health
  • urban planning and health
  • nature-based therapy
  • horticulture therapy
  • animal assisted therapy

Published Papers (19 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle Moving beyond Green: Exploring the Relationship of Environment Type and Indicators of Perceived Environmental Quality on Emotional Well-Being following Group Walks
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2015, 12(1), 106-130; doi:10.3390/ijerph120100106
Received: 4 May 2014 / Accepted: 15 December 2014 / Published: 23 December 2014
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (973 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Against the backdrop of increasing interest in the relationship between Nature and health, this study examined the effect of perceived environment type and indicators of perceived environmental quality on short-term emotional well-being following outdoor group walks. Participants (n = 127) of [...] Read more.
Against the backdrop of increasing interest in the relationship between Nature and health, this study examined the effect of perceived environment type and indicators of perceived environmental quality on short-term emotional well-being following outdoor group walks. Participants (n = 127) of a national group walk program completed pre- and post-walk questionnaires for each walk attended (n = 1009) within a 13-week study period. Multilevel linear modelling was used to examine the main and moderation effects. To isolate the environmental from the physical activity elements, analyses controlled for walk duration and perceived intensity. Analyses revealed that perceived restorativeness and perceived walk intensity predicted greater positive affect and happiness following an outdoor group walk. Perceived restorativeness and perceived bird biodiversity predicted post-walk negative affect. Perceived restorativeness moderated the relationship between perceived naturalness and positive affect. Results suggest that restorative quality of an environment may be an important element for enhancing well-being, and that perceived restorativeness and naturalness of an environment may interact to amplify positive affect. These findings highlight the importance of further research on the contribution of environment type and quality on well-being, and the need to control for effects of physical activity in green exercise research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Are Biophilic-Designed Site Office Buildings Linked to Health Benefits and High Performing Occupants?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(12), 12204-12222; doi:10.3390/ijerph111212204
Received: 12 August 2014 / Revised: 6 November 2014 / Accepted: 6 November 2014 / Published: 26 November 2014
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (6654 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper discusses the first phase of a longitudinal study underway in Australia to ascertain the broad health benefits of specific types of biophilic design for workers in a building site office. A bespoke site design was formulated to include open plan [...] Read more.
This paper discusses the first phase of a longitudinal study underway in Australia to ascertain the broad health benefits of specific types of biophilic design for workers in a building site office. A bespoke site design was formulated to include open plan workspace, natural lighting, ventilation, significant plants, prospect and views, recycled materials and use of non-synthetic materials. Initial data in the first three months was gathered from a series of demographic questions and from interviews and observations of site workers. Preliminary data indicates a strong positive effect from incorporating aspects of biophilic design to boost productivity, ameliorate stress, enhance well-being, foster a collaborative work environment and promote workplace satisfaction, thus contributing towards a high performance workspace. The longitudinal study spanning over two years will track human-plant interactions in a biophilic influenced space, whilst also assessing the concomitant cognitive, social, psychological and physical health benefits for workers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Impact of Viewing vs. Not Viewing a Real Forest on Physiological and Psychological Responses in the Same Setting
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(10), 10883-10901; doi:10.3390/ijerph111010883
Received: 24 July 2014 / Revised: 8 October 2014 / Accepted: 14 October 2014 / Published: 20 October 2014
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (1787 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
We investigated the impact of viewing versus not viewing a real forest on human subjects’ physiological and psychological responses in the same setting. Fifteen healthy volunteers (11 males, four females, mean age 36 years) participated. Each participant was asked to view a [...] Read more.
We investigated the impact of viewing versus not viewing a real forest on human subjects’ physiological and psychological responses in the same setting. Fifteen healthy volunteers (11 males, four females, mean age 36 years) participated. Each participant was asked to view a forest while seated in a comfortable chair for 15 min (Forest condition) vs. sitting the same length of time with a curtain obscuring the forest view (Enclosed condition). Both conditions significantly decreased blood pressure (BP) variables, i.e., systolic BP, diastolic BP, and mean arterial pressure between pre and post experimental stimuli, but these reductions showed no difference between conditions. Interestingly, the Forest viewing reduced cerebral oxygenated hemoglobin (HbO2) assessed by near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) and improved the subjects’ Profile of Mood States (POMS) scores, whereas the Enclosed condition increased the HbO2 and did not affect the POMS scores. There were no significant differences in saliva amylase or heart rate variability (HRV) between the two conditions. Collectively, these results suggest that viewing a real forest may have a positive effect on cerebral activity and psychological responses. However, both viewing and not viewing the forest had similar effects on cardiovascular responses such as BP variables and HRV. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle What Personal and Environmental Factors Determine Frequency of Urban Greenspace Use?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(8), 7977-7992; doi:10.3390/ijerph110807977
Received: 16 June 2014 / Revised: 25 July 2014 / Accepted: 31 July 2014 / Published: 7 August 2014
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (318 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
For many people, urban greenspaces are the only places where they encounter the natural world. This is concerning as there is growing evidence demonstrating that human well-being is enhanced by exposure to nature. There is, therefore, a compelling argument to increase how [...] Read more.
For many people, urban greenspaces are the only places where they encounter the natural world. This is concerning as there is growing evidence demonstrating that human well-being is enhanced by exposure to nature. There is, therefore, a compelling argument to increase how frequently people use urban greenspaces. This may be achieved in two complementary ways by encouraging: (I) non-users to start visiting urban greenspaces; (II) existing users to visit more often. Here we examine the factors that influence frequency of greenspace visitation in the city of Sheffield, England. We demonstrate that people who visit a site least frequently state lower self-reported psychological well-being. We hypothesised that a combination of socio-demographic characteristics of the participants, and the biophysical attributes of the greenspaces that they were visiting, would be important in influencing visit frequency. However, socio-demographic characteristics (income, age, gender) were not found to be predictors. In contrast, some biophysical attributes of greenspaces were significantly related to use frequency. Frequent use was more likely when the time taken to reach a greenspace was shorter and for sites with a higher index of greenspace neglect, but were unrelated to tree cover or bird species richness. We related these results to the motivations that people provide for their visits. Infrequent users were more likely to state motivations associated with the quality of the space, while frequent users gave motivations pertaining to physical, repeated activities. This suggests that there may be no simple way to manage greenspaces to maximise their use across user cohorts as the motivations for visits are very different. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Emotional, Restorative and Vitalizing Effects of Forest and Urban Environments at Four Sites in Japan
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(7), 7207-7230; doi:10.3390/ijerph110707207
Received: 6 June 2014 / Revised: 22 June 2014 / Accepted: 8 July 2014 / Published: 15 July 2014
Cited by 13 | PDF Full-text (528 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The present study investigated the well-being effects of short-term forest walking and viewing (“forest bathing”). The hypothesis in our study was that both environment (forest vs. urban) and activity (walking and viewing) would influence psychological outcomes. An additional aim was to enhance [...] Read more.
The present study investigated the well-being effects of short-term forest walking and viewing (“forest bathing”). The hypothesis in our study was that both environment (forest vs. urban) and activity (walking and viewing) would influence psychological outcomes. An additional aim was to enhance basic research using several psychological methods. We conducted the experiments using 45 respondents in four areas of Japan from August to September, 2011. The hypothesis in our study was supported, because significant interaction terms between the environment and activity were confirmed regarding the Profile of Mood States (POMS) indexes, Restorative Outcome Scale (ROS) and Subjective Vitality Scale (SVS). No statistical differences between the two experimental groups in any of the ten scales were found before the experiment. However, feelings of vigor and positive effects, as well as feelings of subjective recovery and vitality were stronger in the forest environment than in the urban environment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
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Open AccessArticle The Journey of Recovery and Empowerment Embraced by Nature — Clients’ Perspectives on Nature-Based Rehabilitation in Relation to the Role of the Natural Environment
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(7), 7094-7115; doi:10.3390/ijerph110707094
Received: 13 March 2014 / Revised: 16 June 2014 / Accepted: 30 June 2014 / Published: 14 July 2014
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (374 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper presents findings from real life situations, a longitudinal single case study on the role of natural environments in nature-based rehabilitation (NBR) for individuals with stress-related mental disorders, at the Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden in Sweden. A sample of 43 former clients [...] Read more.
This paper presents findings from real life situations, a longitudinal single case study on the role of natural environments in nature-based rehabilitation (NBR) for individuals with stress-related mental disorders, at the Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden in Sweden. A sample of 43 former clients voluntarily participated in semi-structured interview, and the data were analyzed according to interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA). Three main superordinate themes were identified as the three phases of NBR—Prelude, Recuperating and Empowerment—explaining and illuminating the role of the natural environments in each phase. An explanatory model of NBR in this context is presented including the three phases of NBR, IRP supportive occupations and a pyramid of supporting environments. A new component of supportive environments was identified and herby named, Social quietness, an important component facilitating personal and intimate engagement with the natural environments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Impact of Residential Greenness on Preschool Children’s Emotional and Behavioral Problems
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(7), 6757-6770; doi:10.3390/ijerph110706757
Received: 28 April 2014 / Revised: 12 June 2014 / Accepted: 20 June 2014 / Published: 27 June 2014
Cited by 8 | PDF Full-text (364 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study investigated the effects of the proximity to city parks and the influence of residential greenness on children’s emotional and behavioral problems. This cross-sectional study included 1,468 mothers of children (ages 4 to 6) who were residents of the city of [...] Read more.
This study investigated the effects of the proximity to city parks and the influence of residential greenness on children’s emotional and behavioral problems. This cross-sectional study included 1,468 mothers of children (ages 4 to 6) who were residents of the city of Kaunas, Lithuania. The mothers and their children were enrolled in the FP7 PHENOTYPE project study. The mothers reported on their parenting stress and their children’s mental health. Residential greenness was characterized as an average of the satellite-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in a 300 m buffer around each home address, and the proximity to city parks was defined as the distance from the subject’s residence to the nearest park. Linear regression models were used to investigate the association among the residence distances from city parks, greenness and children’s mental health problems. Farther residential distance from city parks was associated with worse mental health (except for the emotional problems subscale) in children whose mothers had a lower education level. More residential greenness was associated with worse mental health (more conditional problems and less prosocial behavior) in children whose mothers had a higher education level. These relationships have important implications for the prevention of emotional and behavioral problems in children. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Nature-Based Stress Management Course for Individuals at Risk of Adverse Health Effects from Work-Related Stress—Effects on Stress Related Symptoms, Workability and Sick Leave
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(6), 6586-6611; doi:10.3390/ijerph110606586
Received: 14 April 2014 / Revised: 3 June 2014 / Accepted: 12 June 2014 / Published: 23 June 2014
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (665 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Sick leave due to stress-related disorders is increasing in Sweden after a period of decrease. To avoid that individuals living under heavy stress develop more severe stress-related disorders, different stress management interventions are offered. Self-assessed health, burnout-scores and well-being are commonly used [...] Read more.
Sick leave due to stress-related disorders is increasing in Sweden after a period of decrease. To avoid that individuals living under heavy stress develop more severe stress-related disorders, different stress management interventions are offered. Self-assessed health, burnout-scores and well-being are commonly used as outcome measures. Few studies have used sick-leave to compare effects of stress interventions. A new approach is to use nature and garden in a multimodal stress management context. This study aimed to explore effects on burnout, work ability, stress-related health symptoms, and sick leave for 33 women participating in a 12-weeks nature based stress management course and to investigate how the nature/garden activities were experienced. A mixed method approach was used. Measures were taken at course start and three follow-ups. Results showed decreased burnout-scores and long-term sick leaves, and increased work ability; furthermore less stress-related symptoms were reported. Tools and strategies to better handle stress were achieved and were widely at use at all follow-ups. The garden and nature content played an important role for stress relief and for tools and strategies to develop. The results from this study points to beneficial effects of using garden activities and natural environments in a stress management intervention. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
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Open AccessArticle Engaging with Peri-Urban Woodlands in England: The Contribution to People’s Health and Well-Being and Implications for Future Management
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(6), 6171-6192; doi:10.3390/ijerph110606171
Received: 25 March 2014 / Revised: 21 May 2014 / Accepted: 31 May 2014 / Published: 12 June 2014
Cited by 5 | PDF Full-text (1194 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
In this paper we engage with debates concerning people and their contact with the natural environment as part of everyday life drawing on Irwin’s ideas of co-construction and Gibson’s theory of affordances. We focus on peri-urban woodlands in England as important places [...] Read more.
In this paper we engage with debates concerning people and their contact with the natural environment as part of everyday life drawing on Irwin’s ideas of co-construction and Gibson’s theory of affordances. We focus on peri-urban woodlands in England as important places where people can interact with nature for health and well-being. Qualitative data were collected in situ via walks in the woods, focus group discussions and photo elicitation, with a sample of 49 people. These methods provide rich data on the wide range of meanings associated with woodlands that can have a perceived impact on people’s health and well-being. The findings link to contemporary debates about health, well-being and ecosystem services. We explore the inter-play between attributes of the physical environment and the range of facilities provided to enable access, social interactions and the benefits people attribute to their woodland experiences. We conclude that peri-urban woodlands can clearly contribute to self-reported health and well-being in multiple ways, and that organized activities can be important for those who face barriers to accessing woodlands. A strong message emerging from the research is the opportunity afforded by woodlands for social connections with others, as well as the provision of a range of sensory benefits and opportunities to observe and enjoy seasonal change in woodlands. Mental restoration via connection with nature also emerged as important, confirming previous research. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Green Perspectives for Public Health: A Narrative Review on the Physiological Effects of Experiencing Outdoor Nature
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(5), 5445-5461; doi:10.3390/ijerph110505445
Received: 1 April 2014 / Revised: 12 May 2014 / Accepted: 14 May 2014 / Published: 19 May 2014
Cited by 14 | PDF Full-text (446 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Natural environments offer a high potential for human well-being, restoration and stress recovery in terms of allostatic load. A growing body of literature is investigating psychological and physiological health benefits of contact with Nature. So far, a synthesis of physiological health outcomes [...] Read more.
Natural environments offer a high potential for human well-being, restoration and stress recovery in terms of allostatic load. A growing body of literature is investigating psychological and physiological health benefits of contact with Nature. So far, a synthesis of physiological health outcomes of direct outdoor nature experiences and its potential for improving Public Health is missing. We were interested in summarizing the outcomes of studies that investigated physiological outcomes of experiencing Nature measuring at least one physiological parameter during the last two decades. Studies on effects of indoor or simulated Nature exposure via videos or photos, animal contact, and wood as building material were excluded from further analysis. As an online literature research delivered heterogeneous data inappropriate for quantitative synthesis approaches, we descriptively summarized and narratively synthesized studies. The procedure started with 1,187 titles. Research articles in English language published in international peer-reviewed journals that investigated the effects of natural outdoor environments on humans by were included. We identified 17 relevant articles reporting on effects of Nature by measuring 20 different physiological parameters. We assigned these parameters to one of the four body systems brain activity, cardiovascular system, endocrine system, and immune function. These studies reported mainly direct and positive effects, however, our analyses revealed heterogeneous outcomes regarding significance of results. Most of the studies were conducted in Japan, based on quite small samples, predominantly with male students as participants in a cross-sectional design. In general, our narrative review provided an ambiguous illustration of the effects outdoor nature exerted on physiological parameters. However, the majority of studies reported significant positive effects. A harmonizing effect of Nature, especially on physiological stress reactions, was found across all body systems. From a Public Health perspective, interdisciplinary work on utilizing benefits of Nature regarding health promotion, disease prevention, and nature-based therapy should be optimized in order to eventually diminish given methodological limitations from mono-disciplinary studies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
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Open AccessCommunication The Effect of Green Exercise on Blood Pressure, Heart Rate and Mood State in Primary School Children
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(4), 3678-3688; doi:10.3390/ijerph110403678
Received: 15 February 2014 / Revised: 26 March 2014 / Accepted: 26 March 2014 / Published: 2 April 2014
Cited by 4 | PDF Full-text (267 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The aim of this study was exploratory and sought to examine the effect on blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR) and mood state responses in primary school children of moderate intensity cycling whilst viewing a green environment compared to exercise alone. Following [...] Read more.
The aim of this study was exploratory and sought to examine the effect on blood pressure (BP), heart rate (HR) and mood state responses in primary school children of moderate intensity cycling whilst viewing a green environment compared to exercise alone. Following ethics approval and parental informed consent, 14 children (seven boys, seven girls, Mean age ± SD = 10 ± 1 years) undertook two, 15 min bouts of cycling at a moderate exercise intensity in a counterbalanced order. In one bout they cycled whilst viewing a film of cycling in a forest setting. In the other condition participants cycled with no visual stimulus. Pre-, immediately post-exercise and 15 min post-exercise, BP, HR and Mood state were assessed. Analysis of variance, indicated significant condition X time interaction for SBP (p = 0.04). Bonferroni post-hoc pairwise comparisons indicated that systolic blood pressure (SBP) 15 min post exercise was significantly lower following green exercise compared to the control condition (p = 0.01). There were no significant differences in diastolic blood pressure (DBP) (all p > 0.05). HR immediately post exercise was significantly higher than HR pre exercise irrespective of green exercise or control condition (p = 0.001). Mood scores for fatigue were significantly higher and scores for vigor lower 15 min post exercise irrespective of green exercise or control condition (both p = 0.0001). Gender was not significant in any analyses (p > 0.05). Thus, the present study identifies an augmented post exercise hypotensive effect for children following green exercise compared to exercise alone. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle The Portrayal of Natural Environment in the Evolution of the Ecological Public Health Paradigm
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2014, 11(1), 1005-1019; doi:10.3390/ijerph110101005
Received: 5 November 2013 / Revised: 19 December 2013 / Accepted: 20 December 2013 / Published: 10 January 2014
Cited by 10 | PDF Full-text (897 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper explores the conceptualization of the natural environment in an evolving ecological public health paradigm. The natural environment has long been recognized as essential to supporting life, health, and wellbeing. Our understanding of the relationship between the natural environment and health [...] Read more.
This paper explores the conceptualization of the natural environment in an evolving ecological public health paradigm. The natural environment has long been recognized as essential to supporting life, health, and wellbeing. Our understanding of the relationship between the natural environment and health has steadily evolved from one of an undynamic environment to a more sophisticated understanding of ecological interactions.  This evolution is reflected in a number of ecological public health models which demonstrate the many external and overlapping determinants of human health. Six models are presented here to demonstrate this evolution, each model reflecting an increasingly ecological appreciation for the fundamental role of the natural environment in supporting human health. We conclude that after decades of public health’s acceptance of the ecological paradigm, we are only now beginning to assemble knowledge of sophisticated ecological interdependencies and apply this knowledge to the conceptualization and study of the relationship between the natural environment and the determinants of human health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Walking for Well-Being: Are Group Walks in Certain Types of Natural Environments Better for Well-Being than Group Walks in Urban Environments?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(11), 5603-5628; doi:10.3390/ijerph10115603
Received: 13 April 2013 / Revised: 22 September 2013 / Accepted: 18 October 2013 / Published: 29 October 2013
Cited by 7 | PDF Full-text (289 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The benefits of walking in natural environments for well-being are increasingly understood. However, less well known are the impacts different types of natural environments have on psychological and emotional well-being. This cross-sectional study investigated whether group walks in specific types of natural [...] Read more.
The benefits of walking in natural environments for well-being are increasingly understood. However, less well known are the impacts different types of natural environments have on psychological and emotional well-being. This cross-sectional study investigated whether group walks in specific types of natural environments were associated with greater psychological and emotional well-being compared to group walks in urban environments. Individuals who frequently attended a walking group once a week or more (n = 708) were surveyed on mental well-being (Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale), depression (Major Depressive Inventory), perceived stress (Perceived Stress Scale) and emotional well-being (Positive and Negative Affect Schedule). Compared to group walks in urban environments, group walks in farmland were significantly associated with less perceived stress and negative affect, and greater mental well-being. Group walks in green corridors were significantly associated with less perceived stress and negative affect. There were no significant differences between the effect of any environment types on depression or positive affect. Outdoor walking group programs could be endorsed through “green prescriptions” to improve psychological and emotional well-being, as well as physical activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Green Space and Stress: Evidence from Cortisol Measures in Deprived Urban Communities
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(9), 4086-4103; doi:10.3390/ijerph10094086
Received: 2 August 2013 / Revised: 14 August 2013 / Accepted: 15 August 2013 / Published: 2 September 2013
Cited by 52 | PDF Full-text (232 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Contact with green space in the environment has been associated with mental health benefits, but the mechanism underpinning this association is not clear. This study extends an earlier exploratory study showing that more green space in deprived urban neighbourhoods in Scotland is [...] Read more.
Contact with green space in the environment has been associated with mental health benefits, but the mechanism underpinning this association is not clear. This study extends an earlier exploratory study showing that more green space in deprived urban neighbourhoods in Scotland is linked to lower levels of perceived stress and improved physiological stress as measured by diurnal patterns of cortisol secretion. Salivary cortisol concentrations were measured at 3, 6 and 9 h post awakening over two consecutive weekdays, together with measures of perceived stress. Participants (n = 106) were men and women not in work aged between 35–55 years, resident in socially disadvantaged districts from the same Scottish, UK, urban context as the earlier study. Results from linear regression analyses showed a significant and negative relationship between higher green space levels and stress levels, indicating living in areas with a higher percentage of green space is associated with lower stress, confirming the earlier study findings. This study further extends the findings by showing significant gender differences in stress patterns by levels of green space, with women in lower green space areas showing higher levels of stress. A significant interaction effect between gender and percentage green space on mean cortisol concentrations showed a positive effect of higher green space in relation to cortisol measures in women, but not in men. Higher levels of neighbourhood green space were associated with healthier mean cortisol levels in women whilst also attenuating higher cortisol levels in men. We conclude that higher levels of green space in residential neighbourhoods, for this deprived urban population of middle-aged men and women not in work, are linked with lower perceived stress and a steeper (healthier) diurnal cortisol decline. However, overall patterns and levels of cortisol secretion in men and women were differentially related to neighbourhood green space and warrant further investigation. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle The Influence of Urban Natural and Built Environments on Physiological and Psychological Measures of Stress— A Pilot Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(4), 1250-1267; doi:10.3390/ijerph10041250
Received: 15 February 2013 / Revised: 18 March 2013 / Accepted: 18 March 2013 / Published: 26 March 2013
Cited by 26 | PDF Full-text (685 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Environments shape health and well-being, yet little research has investigated how different real-world environmental settings influence the well-known determinant of health known as stress. Using a cross-over experimental design; this pilot study investigated the effect of four urban environments on physiological and [...] Read more.
Environments shape health and well-being, yet little research has investigated how different real-world environmental settings influence the well-known determinant of health known as stress. Using a cross-over experimental design; this pilot study investigated the effect of four urban environments on physiological and psychological stress measures. Participants (N = 15) were exposed on separate days to one of the four settings for 20 min. These settings were designated as Very Natural; Mostly Natural; Mostly Built and Very Built. Visitation order to the four settings was individually randomized. Salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase; as well as self-report measures of stress; were collected before and after exposure to each setting. Gender was included as a variable in analysis; and additional data about environmental self-identity, pre-existing stress, and perceived restorativeness of settings were collected as measures of covariance. Differences between environmental settings showed greater benefit from exposure to natural settings relative to built settings; as measured by pre-to-post changes in salivary amylase and self-reported stress; differences were more significant for females than for males. Inclusion of covariates in a regression analysis demonstrated significant predictive value of perceived restorativeness on these stress measures, suggesting some potential level of mediation. These data suggest that exposure to natural environments may warrant further investigation as a health promotion method for reducing stress. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Understanding Urban Green Space as a Health Resource: A Qualitative Comparison of Visit Motivation and Derived Effects among Park Users in Sheffield, UK
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(1), 417-442; doi:10.3390/ijerph10010417
Received: 3 December 2012 / Revised: 11 January 2013 / Accepted: 15 January 2013 / Published: 22 January 2013
Cited by 35 | PDF Full-text (292 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
With increasing interest in the use of urban green space to promote human health, there is a need to understand the extent to which park users conceptualize these places as a resource for health and well-being. This study sought to examine park [...] Read more.
With increasing interest in the use of urban green space to promote human health, there is a need to understand the extent to which park users conceptualize these places as a resource for health and well-being. This study sought to examine park users’ own reasons for and benefits from green space usage and compare these with concepts and constructs in existing person-environment-health theories and models of health. Conducted in 13 public green spaces in Sheffield, UK, we undertook a qualitative content analysis of 312 park users’ responses to open-ended interview questions and identified a breadth, depth and salience of visit motivators and derived effects. Findings highlight a discrepancy between reasons for visiting and derived effects from the use of urban green space. Motivations emphasized walking, green space qualities, and children. Derived effects highlighted relaxation, positive emotions within the self and towards the place, and spiritual well-being. We generate a taxonomy of motivations and derived effects that could facilitate operationalization within empirical research and articulate a conceptual framework linking motivators to outcomes for investigating green space as a resource for human health and well-being. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
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Open AccessArticle The Relationship between Outdoor Activity and Health in Older Adults Using GPS
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(12), 4615-4625; doi:10.3390/ijerph9124615
Received: 26 October 2012 / Revised: 30 November 2012 / Accepted: 30 November 2012 / Published: 10 December 2012
Cited by 11 | PDF Full-text (187 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Physical activity (PA) provides health benefits in older adults. Research suggests that exposure to nature and time spent outdoors may also have effects on health. Older adults are the least active segment of our population, and are likely to spend less time [...] Read more.
Physical activity (PA) provides health benefits in older adults. Research suggests that exposure to nature and time spent outdoors may also have effects on health. Older adults are the least active segment of our population, and are likely to spend less time outdoors than other age groups. The relationship between time spent in PA, outdoor time, and various health outcomes was assessed for 117 older adults living in retirement communities. Participants wore an accelerometer and GPS device for 7 days. They also completed assessments of physical, cognitive, and emotional functioning. Analyses of variance were employed with a main and interaction effect tested for ±30 min PA and outdoor time. Significant differences were found for those who spent >30 min in PA or outdoors for depressive symptoms, fear of falling, and self-reported functioning. Time to complete a 400 m walk was significantly different by PA time only. QoL and cognitive functioning scores were not significantly different. The interactions were also not significant. This study is one of the first to demonstrate the feasibility of using accelerometer and GPS data concurrently to assess PA location in older adults. Future analyses will shed light on potential causal relationships and could inform guidelines for outdoor activity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
Open AccessArticle Adolescents’ Daily Activities and the Restorative Niches that Support Them
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2012, 9(9), 3227-3244; doi:10.3390/ijerph9093227
Received: 25 June 2012 / Revised: 14 August 2012 / Accepted: 21 August 2012 / Published: 5 September 2012
Cited by 3 | PDF Full-text (524 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This paper explores wellbeing from the perspective of the psychological dynamics underlying adolescents’ relationship with place. It uses a dynamic model of wellbeing called personal project analysis (PPA) which captures the concept of ‘flourishing’, defined as functioning well in your activities, strivings [...] Read more.
This paper explores wellbeing from the perspective of the psychological dynamics underlying adolescents’ relationship with place. It uses a dynamic model of wellbeing called personal project analysis (PPA) which captures the concept of ‘flourishing’, defined as functioning well in your activities, strivings and interactions with the world [1]. Using PPA methods we identified adolescents’ daily activities and the ‘restorative niches’ that best support them. A series of settings (including home, urban and natural outdoor places) were explored using PPA with 45 young people (aged 11–13) living in Edinburgh, Central Scotland. Participants were asked to think of eight projects of current importance to them, to say where the project took place and to rate each project against a series of core wellbeing dimensions measuring project meaning, manageability, support and affect (how much fun, stress etc.). Latent class analysis was carried out to explore clusters—or sub-groups—in the data and to identify the significant discriminators between clusters. A three-cluster model produced the best fit with project type, project place and wellbeing indicators (fun and stress) significantly discriminating between the three clusters. The three clusters were labeled by their dominant environmental context, ‘faraway’ (e.g., beach, national parks, hills), ‘everyday’ (e.g., home, school, local streets) and ‘citywide’ (e.g., sport settings, urban town context). ‘Faraway’ and ‘citywide’ clusters had a significantly higher wellbeing content, especially for fun and stress; the ‘everyday’ cluster indicated local environs remain a dominant project place for this age group, but are associated with greater stress. We compare findings with adults and suggest that outdoor settings further afield from home have greater significance within adolescent project systems, but that support is needed to facilitate access to these places. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)
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Review

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Open AccessReview What are the Benefits of Interacting with Nature?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2013, 10(3), 913-935; doi:10.3390/ijerph10030913
Received: 5 December 2012 / Revised: 6 February 2013 / Accepted: 26 February 2013 / Published: 6 March 2013
Cited by 62 | PDF Full-text (360 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
There is mounting empirical evidence that interacting with nature delivers measurable benefits to people. Reviews of this topic have generally focused on a specific type of benefit, been limited to a single discipline, or covered the benefits delivered from a particular type [...] Read more.
There is mounting empirical evidence that interacting with nature delivers measurable benefits to people. Reviews of this topic have generally focused on a specific type of benefit, been limited to a single discipline, or covered the benefits delivered from a particular type of interaction. Here we construct novel typologies of the settings, interactions and potential benefits of people-nature experiences, and use these to organise an assessment of the benefits of interacting with nature. We discover that evidence for the benefits of interacting with nature is geographically biased towards high latitudes and Western societies, potentially contributing to a focus on certain types of settings and benefits. Social scientists have been the most active researchers in this field. Contributions from ecologists are few in number, perhaps hindering the identification of key ecological features of the natural environment that deliver human benefits. Although many types of benefits have been studied, benefits to physical health, cognitive performance and psychological well-being have received much more attention than the social or spiritual benefits of interacting with nature, despite the potential for important consequences arising from the latter. The evidence for most benefits is correlational, and although there are several experimental studies, little as yet is known about the mechanisms that are important for delivering these benefits. For example, we do not know which characteristics of natural settings (e.g., biodiversity, level of disturbance, proximity, accessibility) are most important for triggering a beneficial interaction, and how these characteristics vary in importance among cultures, geographic regions and socio-economic groups. These are key directions for future research if we are to design landscapes that promote high quality interactions between people and nature in a rapidly urbanising world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Health Benefits of Nature)

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