Nature Reduces Stress

Stress levels reduced by vegetation

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(RxWiki News) If you don't see green when you look out the window, you're at greater risk of mental and behavioral health issues, a new study suggests.

Researchers at the The James Hutton Institute and OPENspace research center in the U.K. found a direct correlation between the amount of grass, trees, and nature in an area and the stress levels of its inhabitants.

The greener it gets, the more carefree the community.

"Spend more time in natural environments."

Director of OPENspace, Catharine Ward Thompson, acted as lead author on the study, hoping to further the growing research linking natural land to health benefits. “The evidence is particularly strong for positive associations between experience of natural environments and mental health,” Thompson and her colleagues write.

“It appears that contact with natural environments promotes psychological restoration, improved mood, improved attention and reduced stress and anxiety.”

In order to prove this connection, the researchers recruited volunteers facing socio-economic adversity in Dundee, UK, which “contains a number of highly deprived neighborhoods with varying levels of green space,” they explain.

One-third of the recruits participated in the study, and the levels of cortisol, a hormone released in response to stress, was compared amongst 25 men and women, average age 43.

Each participant gathered a total of eight saliva samples over the course of two days.  Healthcare professionals text prompted the patients to swab every three hours after waking to maximize adherence, and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays were used to determine the levels of cortisol within the saliva.

“While the methods used are unable to show a causal relationship, we found a significant positive correlation between the diurnal decline in cortisol across the day and percentage of green space (the more green, the more decline),” authors note.

“This relationship held after adjusting for demographic and socioeconomic variables in a multivariate regression model.”

The research team believes these findings represent the “missing link” for previous studies making the connection without measurements of stress response levels.

"For the first time, researchers have worked with unemployed people from deprived areas and used scientific tests to show that, where there is more green space around, people's stress levels were measurably lower,” says Thompson.

On the other hand, she explains, “less green space was linked with signs of the body's hormones not working properly."

The journal Landscape and Urban Planning published the study, funded through the Scottish government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) division. There were no conflicts reported in the study, which was carried out in accordance with the British Psychological Society’s Ethical Principles for Conducting the Research with Human Participation

Last Updated:
February 19, 2012