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relaxation, as measured by heart rate, comparedto viewing an urban environment
Laumann,Gärling and Stormark, 2003).Kaplan, Ivancich and De Young (2007), indescribing the many roles played by naturalelements within urban settings, emphasise theimportance of nature within urbanenvironments. As the authors put it, “Urbannature is not just an amenity; it is essential.”
Health and wellbeing
The origins of environmental psychology, andits connections to health and wellbeing can betraced to the work of Proshansky and hiscolleagues who, in studying which hospitaldesigns would provide health benefits to patients, can be said to have founded a newdiscipline (Proshansky, Ittelson, & Rivlin,1970).
Natural environments and health
In his classic and oft-cited study, Ulrich (1984)examined hospital patients after they had major surgery. The patients were in two groups, one of which had a view of trees, plants and grasswhile the other had a view of a brick wall. Itwas found that the patients with a natural viewspent less time in hospital, required fewer pain-relieving drugs, had fewer complications andreceived fewer negative comments in nurse'snotes compared to patients with the brick view.A potential criticism of the study was that thedifferences may have been due to differencesother than the naturalness of the scene, such asvisual complexity. However, subsequentresearch suggested that the naturalness of theview was a significant factor (see Ulrich andLunden, 1990, for example).On a smaller scale, it has also been shown thatthe presence of indoor plants in a hospital roomcan have positive effects on health, includingrecovery from surgery (Park, 2006). Thissuggests that hospitals, hospices and clinicswithout access to a natural environment can benefit patients’ health by making indoor plantsavailable.
Natural environments and wellbeing
Two studies of gardeners found benefits of active engagement with garden environments.Kaplan (1973) studied largely middle-classmembers of the American Horticulture Societywhile Lewis (1996) studied working-class urbangardeners in New York, Philadelphia, Chicagoand Vancouver, Canada. Both reported peacefulness, tranquillity and wellbeing as benefits of participating in gardening. The latter study also reported benefits of increasedsociability, reduced vandalism andneighbourhood revitilisation. At an individuallevel, this study also reported increased self-esteem. Medical checks on the participantsfound lowered blood-pressure, reduced need for medication, and feeling more relaxed andneeded. Both active gardening and the passivecontemplation of plants appear to havetherapeutic effects.According to Mitchell and Popham (2008), parks, playing fields and forests provide both astress-reducing restorative effect and also allowmore physical activity, both of which improvehealth by lowering the risk of heart disease. Theauthors observed that having access to suchenvironments substantially narrowed the healthgap between rich and poor in terms of deathrates.According to Ulrich and Addoms (1981), even people who do not visit parks feel better for knowing that they are there; an argument infavour of creating parks and reserves in remoteareas with restricted or perhaps only webcamaccess.A study in Sweden of elderly (average age 86!)residents in a care home, showed that theyobtained higher scores on tests of concentrationwhen they had a rest period in a natural settingcompared to an indoor setting (Ottosson &Grahn, 2005).
Natural environments and mental health
Several studies have shown that childrendiagnosed with Attention Deficit HyperactivityDisorder (ADHD) experience an improvementin their symptoms following outdoor green play,compared to outdoor urban play or indoor play(Faber, Kuo, & Sullivan, 2001; Kuo, & Faber,2004). Natural environments have also been shown toreduce the impact of stressful events onchildren, particularly those who hadexperienced a greater number of stressful events(Wells & Evans, 2003).A longitudinal study of older people living inFrance demonstrated a link between gardeningand a reduced risk of developing dementia(Fabrigoule, Letenneur, Commenges &Barberger-Gateau, 1995).