There are hundreds, if not thousands of studies documenting the importance of exposure to the natural environment on performance, mood and mental health. “More than 100 studies have shown that relaxation and stress reduction are significant benefits associated with spending time in green areas.” (J. Davis, 2004. Psychological Benefits of Nature Experiences: An Outline of Research and Theory. Naropa University).
The article ‘Mental Health & Function’ and ‘Natural News’ referred to a UK study which found that walking- in general -decreased one’s self-report of feeling depressed, but 71% said walking in a park outdoors found rates of depression decreased vs. 45% for those walking in a shopping center. “Another study investigated major depression disorder (MDD) and found that an exercise program can be just as effective as antidepressants in reducing depression among patients. The value of green spaces in encouraging exercise is relevant to treating depression symptoms.”
The same article reported on children with ADD Attention Deficit Disorder, and several studies which “show that childhood ADD symptoms can be reduced through activities in green settings and that ‘green time’ may be an important supplement to established drug-based and behavioral treatments.” Even in urban settings, research shows that ‘relatively natural urban settings’ promote better performance on objective concentration tests than less natural urban settings-[ie. completely indoors/no view+ video games & TV.]
Beyond age, social class, rural/urban settings, the research looks at patients with Alzheimers and Dementia, workplace settings, college settings, children’s home, play and school settings, those being treated for cancer and various illnesses, and technological environments- just to name a few categories. The role of nature even extends to windowless environments. Those with natural plasma display views of natural settings or artwork have enhanced psychological and cognitive functioning than those with blank walls, and enhance a subject’s well-being. This is important for those who work in interior laboratories, government, institutional, corporate and healthcare settings, windowless rooms, and spaces below ground.
One study of 345,143 people in Holland assessed “health status for 24 conditions, including cardiovascular, respiratory, and neurological diseases. This information was then correlated with how much green space was located within 1 kilometer and 3 kilometers of a person’s postal code. Persons living in more urban environments had a higher prevalence of 15 of the 24 conditions, the relationship strongest for anxiety disorder and depression.” This was reported by Amanda Gardner, Health Day in USA Today. Read more at: http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-10-15-nature-anxiety-exercise_N.htm?c…
Ben Hirshberg of Natural News reports that University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign did research on public housing in Chicago which found, ‘subjects who were assigned to rooms with a view of nature had fewer aggressive conflicts, incidents of domestic violence, procrastinated less on goals they deemed important, and were less likely to believe that they had unsolvable problems than subjects who had views of the courtyard.’ Read more at http://www.hollyhocklife.org/mental-health-benefits-of-nature/
University of Illinois environmental and behavioral scientist Dr. Frances (Ming) Kuo addressed the more rigorous scientific research which has been going on, often under the radar in recent years, beyond anecdotal evidence and cause-oriented flimsy conclusions. She cites credible studies which show, ‘In less green environments, we find higher rates of aggression, violence, violent crime, and property crime-even after controlling for income and other differences. We also find more evidence of loneliness and more individuals reporting inadequate social support.’ This is reported in more detail in Psych Central. http://psychcentral.com/news2011/04/20/going-green-benefits-physical-mental-health/254…
The research findings Dr. Kuo cites show, “access to nature yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline and impulse control and greater mental health overall. Less access to nature is linked to exacerbated attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, higher rates of anxiety disorders, and higher rates of clinical depression.”
Patients exposed to natural settings experience better immune system functioning, and enhanced recovery from illness. With less green space, there are higher rates of 15 out of 24 categories of physician diagnosed diseases. ‘Because we’ve evolved and come indoors from a largely farming environment to offices & synthetic spaces, drive cars and use computers, doesn’t mean we can cut ourselves off from the natural environment we’re so connected with,’ says the author of Patterns in Interior Environments, Perception, Psychology & Practice. ‘Mind, Body, and Environment are integrally linked, and who doesn’t feel better going to woods, lake or beach? This is how we are perceptually programmed.”
[Photo credit: teen and dad fishing by Goldenkb Dreamstime 15051390]