Special Issue "Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Environmental Health".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 24 February 2020.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Patrik Grahn
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Work Science, Business Economics and Environmental Psychology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Box 88, 23053 Alnarp, Sweden
Interests: Landscape Architecture; Health Design; Public Health; Rehabilitation; Therapeutic Use of Natural Environments; Coping Resources
Prof. Lena Lidfors
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Department of Animal Environment and Health, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, P.O Box 234, SE-532 23 Skara, Sweden
Interests: Animal-Assisted Therapy; Anthrozoology; Therapy dogs; Cats in homes for elderly; Green Care farms; Equine Assisted Therapy
Dr. Anna Maria Palsdottir
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Department of Work Science, Business Economics and Environmental Psychology, P.O. Box 88, SE-230 53 Alnarp, Sweden
Interests: Nature-based interventions including different kind of landscape such as forest, gardens, parks, agriculturla landscape, lakes/sea shores; Landscape Planning and Architecutre; Evidence Based Health Design; Public Health and Nature; Environmental Pscyhology; Urban Agriculture; Nature-based Integration and social interactions
Assoc. Prof. Ann Dolling
E-Mail Website
Co-Guest Editor
Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Forest and Health, SE-901 83 Umeå, Sweden
Interests: Wilderness Therapy and Forest Therapy; Forest Bathing; Forest planning; Human health; Nature Based Integration

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Interventions aimed at strengthening human health have been used in natural environments since ancient time. From the beginning of the 20th century, they have included more and more varieties, such as horticultural therapy, nature therapy, garden therapy, wilderness therapy, ecotherapy, forest therapy, green care and animal assisted therapy. At the same time, these nature-based therapies (NBT) target more and more types of disability, ill health and diseases. As non-communicable diseases, such as psychiatric diagnoses, burnout, cardiovascular disease; and chronic diseases, such as dementia, ASD, asthma, body aches, COPD, etc. are increasing worldwide, interest in NBT are also increasing. This is because NBT appear to have a positive impact on these often hard-to-treat diseases, and without any serious side effects.

NBT contain many parts, such as choice of location, choice of team, choice of activities, etc. It is important for the continued development in the field that all these parts are carefully described. As interest increases, the demands for evidence-based development in the area increase. In this special issue, we invite researchers in health promoting interventions (e.g., public health, psychology, sociology, psychiatry, occupational therapy and physiotherapy), as well as experts in "nature" (e.g., biology, agriculture, veterinary medicine, ethology, horticulture, forestry, and landscape architecture) to deepen the research topic of NBT:

1)    Evidence. More well-designed studies are needed to prove that NBT work; and furthermore, for what types of diseases/ill health may NBT be the best choice.

2)    Theory. Theoretical explanatory models regarding how NBT can improve human health.

3)    Content. Description of the studied interventions: qualities of the site; team knowledge and education; selected activities; participants’ time in intervention.

4)    Best matching, between selected intervention and participants needs. This include: composition of team, choice of location, choice of activities, and length of intervention.

Prof. Dr. Patrik Grahn
Prof. Lena Lidfors
Dr. Anna Maria Palsdottir
Assoc. Prof. Ann Dolling
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short 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 thoroughly refereed through a single-blind 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 semimonthly 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 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Health promotion
  • Rehabilitation
  • Natural Environment
  • Nature Therapy
  • Horticultural Therapy
  • Green Care
  • Animal Assisted Therapy

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

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Open AccessArticle
Organised Physical Activity in the Forests of the Warsaw and Tricity Agglomerations, Poland
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(20), 3961; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16203961 - 17 Oct 2019
Abstract
Research Highlights: The achieved results indicate that in the period of 2010–2016, the number of sporting events (running, cycling and walking) as well as the number of participants has increased many times. Methods: A geostatistical method, i.e., kriging, was used to check the [...] Read more.
Research Highlights: The achieved results indicate that in the period of 2010–2016, the number of sporting events (running, cycling and walking) as well as the number of participants has increased many times. Methods: A geostatistical method, i.e., kriging, was used to check the distance-based relationship between agglomerations proximity and sporting events. The questionnaire surveys were used to determine the reasons for physical activity in the forest. Results: The analysis of the impact of the scope of the urban agglomerations on the number of organised physical activities proved that, in both cases (Warsaw and Tricity), most events take place in forests located close to these cities. The larger the distance to Warsaw or Tricity, the lower the number of sporting events and the lower the number of participants. The reasons why people take up physical activity are mainly to improve their health and physical condition, reduce stress and improve wellbeing. Conclusions: The conducted research indicates a significant increase in the importance of non-productive functions of forests located in the vicinity of urban agglomerations, as well as the need for continuous monitoring of actions taken by foresters to promote active lifestyles. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)
Open AccessArticle
The Influence of Forest Resting Environments on Stress Using Virtual Reality
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(18), 3263; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16183263 - 05 Sep 2019
Abstract
To explore the effects of different types of forest environments for forest therapy, this study focused on forest resting environments. Seven representative forest resting environments found in field research in Beijing were used as independent variables and were shown to subjects by a [...] Read more.
To explore the effects of different types of forest environments for forest therapy, this study focused on forest resting environments. Seven representative forest resting environments found in field research in Beijing were used as independent variables and were shown to subjects by a virtual reality (VR) video. Stress level was used as the dependent variable, and blood pressure, heart rate, salivary amylase, and the Brief Profile of Mood States (BPOMS) were used as physiological and psychological indicators. A between-subjects design was used in the experiment. A total of 96 subjects were randomly assigned to each environment type, and only one type of forest resting environment was observed. Through the relevant sample t-test and one-way analysis of variance, the pre- and post-test data of the indicators were analyzed. This study found that all the seven different types of forest resting environments can produce stress relief effects to some extent. Different types of forest resting environments have different effects on relieving stress. The most natural environment does not have the most significant effect on stress relief. A water landscape has a positive effect on the relief of stress. The conclusions of this study are conducive to the better use of the forest environment for forest therapy services. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)
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Open AccessArticle
A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Nature-Based Mindfulness: Effects of Moving Mindfulness Training into an Outdoor Natural Setting
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(17), 3202; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16173202 - 02 Sep 2019
Abstract
Research has proven that both mindfulness training and exposure to nature have positive health effects. The purpose of this study was to systematically review quantitative studies of mindfulness interventions conducted in nature (nature-based mindfulness), and to analyze the effects through meta-analyses. Electronic searches [...] Read more.
Research has proven that both mindfulness training and exposure to nature have positive health effects. The purpose of this study was to systematically review quantitative studies of mindfulness interventions conducted in nature (nature-based mindfulness), and to analyze the effects through meta-analyses. Electronic searches revealed a total of 25 studies to be included, examining 2990 participants. Three analyses were conducted: Nature-based mindfulness interventions evaluated as open trials (k = 13), nature-based mindfulness compared with groups in non-active control conditions (k = 5), and nature-based mindfulness compared with similar interventions but without contact with nature (k = 7). The overall combined psychological, physiological, and interpersonal effects from pre- to post-intervention were statistically significant and of medium size (g = 0.54, p < 0.001). Moderation analyses showed that natural environments characterized as forests/wild nature obtained larger numerical effects than environments characterized as gardens/parks, as did informal mindfulness compared with formal mindfulness. The small number of studies included, as well as the heterogeneity and generally low quality of the studies, must be taken into consideration when the results are interpreted. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42017065639. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Experiences of the Urban Green Local Environment as a Factor for Well-Being among Adults: An Exploratory Qualitative Study in Southern Sweden
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(14), 2464; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16142464 - 11 Jul 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The amount and quality of greenness in the local outdoor environment has repeatedly been linked to human well-being. Different types of green areas are likely required in order to meet the various needs of people throughout the course of their lives and with [...] Read more.
The amount and quality of greenness in the local outdoor environment has repeatedly been linked to human well-being. Different types of green areas are likely required in order to meet the various needs of people throughout the course of their lives and with regard to individual social and economic living conditions. The aim of the present study was to increase the understanding of different pathways between green environments, well-being and health. We conducted 16 interviews to explore perceptions and experiences among adults residing in a semi-urban to urban area and derived categories and subcategories from the data using content analysis. We identified six categories; promoting activities, supporting social contacts, stimulating sensory impressions, providing a retreat, offering ways to influence and creating a sense of coherence, and we recognized that the availability to, and contrasts between and maintenance of the environment were experienced as prerequisites for health-promoting properties of the green local environment. The results illustrate a rich variety in potential pathways through which the green local environment may promote well-being. The study highlights the need to plan the local environment from multiple perspectives, as well as carefully considering prerequisites of various kinds in order for the green environment to support health across the life-course. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)
Open AccessArticle
Growing Resilience through Interaction with Nature: Can Group Walks in Nature Buffer the Effects of Stressful Life Events on Mental Health?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(6), 986; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16060986 - 19 Mar 2019
Cited by 2
Abstract
Nature-based activities have been used as therapeutic interventions for those experiencing stress and mental ill health. This study investigates whether group walks could be a nature-based intervention to foster resilience, by buffering the effects of recent stressful life events on mental health. An [...] Read more.
Nature-based activities have been used as therapeutic interventions for those experiencing stress and mental ill health. This study investigates whether group walks could be a nature-based intervention to foster resilience, by buffering the effects of recent stressful life events on mental health. An observational research design with propensity score-matched samples compared the mental health of individuals who did (Nature Group Walkers, n = 1081) or did not (Non-Group Walkers, n = 435) attend nature group walks. A sub-sample of Frequent Nature Group Walkers (at least once per week, n = 631) was also investigated. Data were analyzed using multiple regression with an interaction term. All analyses were controlled for age, gender, and recent physical activity. Results showed that neither nature group walking, nor doing this frequently, moderated the effects of stressful life events on mental health. Using a main effects model, the positive associations of group walks in nature were at a greater magnitude than the negative associations of stressful life events on depression, positive affect, and mental well-being, suggesting an ‘undoing’ effect of nature group walks. Group walking schemes in natural environments may be an important public health promotion intervention for mental health. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)
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Open AccessArticle
Benefits of Gardening Activities for Cognitive Function According to Measurement of Brain Nerve Growth Factor Levels
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(5), 760; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16050760 - 02 Mar 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
The objective of this study was to determine the effects of gardening activities in senior individuals on brain nerve growth factors related to cognitive function. Forty-one senior individuals (age 76.6 ± 6.0 years) were recruited from the local community in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South [...] Read more.
The objective of this study was to determine the effects of gardening activities in senior individuals on brain nerve growth factors related to cognitive function. Forty-one senior individuals (age 76.6 ± 6.0 years) were recruited from the local community in Gwangjin-gu, Seoul, South Korea. A 20-min low-to-moderate intensity gardening activity intervention, making a vegetable garden, was performed by the subjects in a garden plot located on the Konkuk University (Seoul, South Korea) campus. The gardening involved six activities including cleaning a garden plot, digging, fertilizing, raking, planting/transplanting, and watering. To determine the effects of the gardening activities on brain nerve growth factors related to memory, blood samples were drawn twice from each subject before and after the gardening activity by professional nurses. The levels of brain nerve growth factors, including brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet derived growth factor (PDGF), were analyzed. Levels of BDNF and PDGF were significantly increased after the gardening activity. This study revealed a potential benefit of gardening activities for cognitive function in senior individuals. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)
Open AccessArticle
The Tree Is My Anchor: A Pilot Study on the Treatment of BED through Nature-Based Therapy
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(11), 2486; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15112486 - 08 Nov 2018
Abstract
Binge eating disorder (BED), characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating with a subjective experience of lack of control, is the world’s most common eating disorder. The aim of the present pilot study was to examine the feasibility of implementing nature-based therapy (NBT) [...] Read more.
Binge eating disorder (BED), characterized by recurrent episodes of binge eating with a subjective experience of lack of control, is the world’s most common eating disorder. The aim of the present pilot study was to examine the feasibility of implementing nature-based therapy (NBT) in the treatment of BED. The NBT intervention was compared to Support Group Meetings (SGMs), which are the only publicly available form of support for people diagnosed with BED in Denmark. Twenty participants with a BED diagnosis were included in the study, which had a mixed-methods design including Eating Disorder Examination interviews, semi-structured interviews, and questionnaires measuring well-being (The Psychological General Well-Being Index) and self-esteem (Rosenberg’s Self-Esteem Scale). Both the NBT and the SGMs showed positive results on all outcome measures (decreases in binge eating episodes and increases in general psychological well-being and self-esteem). The interviews indicated that the NBT context made the psychotherapeutic content more accessible to the participants and further helped them transfer the therapeutic gains to daily life after completing treatment. However, these results should be interpreted with caution due to the small sample size—ideally, they would need to be tested on a larger, randomized sample. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)

Review

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Open AccessReview
Psycho-Physiological Stress Recovery in Outdoor Nature-Based Interventions: A Systematic Review of the Past Eight Years of Research
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(10), 1711; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101711 - 16 May 2019
Cited by 1
Abstract
Background: In modern, urban daily life, natural environments are increasingly recognized as an important resource for stress recovery and general well-being. Aim: the present review aims to provide an overview and synthesis of the past eight years’ research into the psycho-physiological effects of [...] Read more.
Background: In modern, urban daily life, natural environments are increasingly recognized as an important resource for stress recovery and general well-being. Aim: the present review aims to provide an overview and synthesis of the past eight years’ research into the psycho-physiological effects of outdoor nature-based interventions, related to stress recovery. Method: a structured search was performed in seven databases, returning 5618 articles. Removal of duplicates and initial screening gave a total of 95 studies. After full text reading, 36 studies were included in the assessment. Results: most of the psychological outcomes were related to different emotional measures. The synthesis of the results points towards outdoor, nature-based exposure having a positive effect on different emotional parameters, related to stress relief. The studies into physiological measures showed more equivocal results. Conclusion: the research, conducted over the past eight years, into outdoor, nature-based exposure has now attained a sound evidence base for psychological and especially emotional effects, but the evidence base for physiological effects within this timeframe shows a great degree of heterogeneity. Limitations: interpretation of the results is limited by the review only covering the past eight years’ research on the subject. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Nature-Based Therapies and Human Health)
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