Does being near nature reduce stress?

 

This study investigates whether the presence of green space can attenuate negative health impacts of stressful life events. Individual-level data on health and socio-demographic characteristics were drawn from a representative two-stage sample of 4529 Dutch respondents to the second Dutch National Survey of General Practice (DNSGP-2), conducted in 2000–2002. Health measures included: (1) the number of health complaints in the last 14 days; (2) perceived mental health (measured by the GHQ-12); and (3) a single item measure of perceived general health ranging from ‘excellent’ to ‘poor’. Percentages of green space in a 1-km and 3-km radius around the home were derived from the 2001 National Land cover Classification database (LGN4). Data were analysed using multilevel regression analysis, with GP practices as the group-level units. All analyses were controlled for age, gender, income, education level, and level of urbanity. The results show that the relationships of stressful life events with number of health complaints and perceived general health were significantly moderated by amount of green space in a 3-km radius. Respondents with a high amount of green space in a 3-km radius were less affected by experiencing a stressful life event than respondents with a low amount of green space in this radius. The same pattern was observed for perceived mental health, although it was marginally significant. The moderating effects of green space were found only for green space within 3 km, and not for green space within 1 km of residents’ homes, presumably because the 3-km indicator is more affected by the presence of larger areas of green space, that are supposed to sustain deeper forms of restoration. These results support the notion that green space can provide a buffer against the negative health impact of stressful life events.

Source: “Green space as a buffer between stressful life events and health” from Social Science & Medicine, Volume 70, Issue 8, April 2010, Pages 1203-1210

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