natural environments

People who commute through natural environments daily report better mental health

This association is even stronger among active commuters

October 18, 2018

Science Daily/Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)

People who commute through natural environments report better mental health. This is the main conclusion of a research based on questionnaires answered by nearly 3,600 participants from four European cities.

 

According to a new study led by the Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal) -- a centre supported by the "la Caixa" Foundation -- , people who commute through natural environments report better mental health. This is the main conclusion of a research based on questionnaires answered by nearly 3,600 participants from four European cities and published in Environment International.

 

The study was conducted within the Positive Health Effects of the Natural Outdoor Environment in Typical Populations in Different Regions in Europe project (PHENOTYPE). The 3,599 participants from Barcelona (Spain), Doetinchem (the Netherlands), Kaunas (Lithuania) and Stoke-on-Trent (UK) answered a questionnaire about their commuting habits and their mental health. The statistical analysis showed that respondents commuting through natural environments on a daily basis had on average a 2.74 point higher mental health score compared to those who commuted through natural environments less frequently. This association was even stronger among people who reported active commuting (i.e. walking or cycling). In this case, natural environments were defined as all public and private outdoor spaces that contain 'green' and/or 'blue' natural elements such as street trees, forests, city parks and natural parks/reserves, and also included all types of waterbodies.

 

Other results showed that there were more active commuters among those who declared commuting through natural environments daily. However, the quality of the natural environments in which commuting took place did not influence the results.

 

"From previous experimental studies we knew that physical activity in natural environments can reduce stress, improve mood and mental restoration when compared to the equivalent activity in urban environments. Although this study is the first of its kind to our knowledge and, therefore, more research will be needed, our data show that commuting through these natural spaces alone may also have a positive effect on mental health," says Wilma Zijlema, ISGlobal researcher and first author of the study.

 

"Mental health and physical inactivity are two of the main public health problems associated with the life in urban environments. Urban design could be a powerful tool to confront these challenges and create healthier cities. One way of doing so would be investing in natural commuting routes for cycling and walking," states Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, coordinator of the ISGlobal Initiative of Urban Planning, Environment and Health and last author of the study.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/10/181018095349.htm

Are some natural environments more psychologically beneficial than others?

October 31, 2017

Science Daily/University of Surrey

Spending time in rural and coastal locations is more psychologically beneficial to individuals than time spent in urban green spaces, a new study reports.

 

During this innovative study, researchers from the University of Surrey, University of Exeter, University of Plymouth and Plymouth Marine Laboratory worked with Natural England to examine the experiences of over 4,500 people when spending time in nature and investigated for the first time how different environmental settings and their quality impacted on psychological wellbeing.

 

Asking participants to describe their visit and to evaluate their overall encounter, researchers discovered that those who visited rural and coastal locations reported greater psychological contentment than those who spent time in urban green spaces, such as city gardens and parks. It was also found that visits to natural areas of protected or designated status i.e. national parks, also resulted in improved mental wellbeing.

 

Researchers found these visits to nature (especially those to protected sites and to coastal and rural green settings) were associated with both greater feelings of relaxation and refreshment but also stronger emotional connections to the natural world. Interestingly it was discovered that visits longer than 30 minutes were associated with a better connection and subsequently had greater psychological benefits.

 

Socio-economic status was also found not to be a factor in enjoyment of nature, demonstrating the importance of providing free/affordable entrance to sites. This will help prevent socio-economic inequality in accessing nature.

 

Lead author of the paper Dr Kayleigh Wyles, who undertook the research whilst at Plymouth Marine Laboratory and now Lecturer in Environmental Psychology at the University of Surrey, said:

 

"We've demonstrated for some time that nature can be beneficial to us, but we're still exploring how and why. Here we have found that our mental wellbeing and our emotional bond with nature may differ depending on the type and quality of an environment we visit.

 

"These findings are important as they not only help unpick the mechanisms behind these psychological benefits, but they can also help to prioritise the protection of these environments and emphasise why accessibility to nature is so important."

 

Professor Mel Austen, Head of the Sea and Society Science Area at Plymouth Marine Laboratory said: "It was surprising to learn that the extent of protection of marine environments also affects the extent of mental health benefits that people gain from their interactions with the sea.

 

"People's health is likely to become an increasingly important aspect to consider as we manage our coasts and waters for the benefit of all users."

 

The positive benefits of interaction with nature are well documented with numerous studies reporting a reduction of stress levels in participants and an increase in overall wellbeing in those spending time in nature. This is the first study of its kind which shows that different types of natural environments have more of an impact on psychological wellbeing than others.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/10/171031202451.htm

 

Member Login
Welcome, (First Name)!

Forgot? Show
Log In
Enter Member Area
My Profile Not a member? Sign up. Log Out