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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(8), 1390; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081390

Sounds of Nature in the City: No Evidence of Bird Song Improving Stress Recovery

1
Department of Forest Resource Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 901 83 Umeå, Sweden
2
Department of Ecology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, 750 07 Uppsala, Sweden
3
Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences, University of Gothenburg, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden
4
Department of Clinical Neuroscience, Karolinska Institutet, 171 77 Stockholm, Sweden
5
Department of Social Work and Psychology, University of Gävle, 801 76 Gävle, Sweden
6
Division of Applied Acoustics, Chalmers University of Technology, 412 96 Gothenburg, Sweden
7
Monell Chemical Senses Center, Philadelphia, PA 19104-3308, USA
8
Department of Psychology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 191 04, USA
9
Stockholm University Brain Imaging Centre, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 March 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 13 April 2019 / Published: 17 April 2019
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Abstract

: Noise from city traffic is one of the most significant environmental stressors. Natural soundscapes, such as bird songs, have been suggested to potentially mitigate or mask noise. All previous studies on masking noise use self-evaluation data rather than physiological data. In this study, while respondents (n = 117) watched a 360° virtual reality (VR) photograph of a park, they were exposed to different soundscapes and mild electrical shocks. The soundscapes—“bird song”, “bird song and traffic noise”, and “traffic noise”—were played during a 10 min recovery period while their skin conductance levels were assessed as a measure of arousal/stress. No significant difference in stress recovery was found between the soundscapes although a tendency for less stress in “bird song” and more stress in “traffic noise” was noted. All three soundscapes, however, significantly reduced stress. This result could be attributed to the stress-reducing effect of the visual VR environment, to the noise levels being higher than 47 dBA (a level known to make masking ineffective), or to the respondents finding bird songs stressful. Reduction of stress in cities using masking with natural sounds requires further studies with not only larger samples but also sufficient methods to detect potential sex differences.
Keywords: stress; experiment; virtual reality; soundscape; bird song; noise stress; experiment; virtual reality; soundscape; bird song; noise
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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Hedblom, M.; Gunnarsson, B.; Schaefer, M.; Knez, I.; Thorsson, P.; Lundström, J.N. Sounds of Nature in the City: No Evidence of Bird Song Improving Stress Recovery. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16, 1390.

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