people think of forests, they may think of wilderness or recreational
experiences or timber products or even the role trees play
in protecting our environment. But there are several less
obvious benefits of forests and trees.
Studies have shown that viewing
trees can offer important physical and psychological benefits
like lowering blood pressure, slowing heart rate and promoting
a sense of well-being.
Trees and Healing
A landmark study by Dr. Robert Ulrich found that post surgical
patients in rooms with views of trees recovered faster and
required less pain medication then patients whose windows
faced a brick wall. The benefits from nature are not limited
to recovering patients. Viewing nature has been shown to alleviate
mental fatigue, heighten attention and focus, and lower levels
Habitat for People
At the University of Illinois Human-Environment Research Laboratory
researchers study the relationship between people and their
physical environment. Much of their research has been conducted
in the public housing neighborhoods of Chicago. Among their
Residents who lived in buildings
with trees reported less violent behavior including fewer
incidents of domestic violence. Vegetation has been shown
to alleviate mental fatigue, one of the precursors to violent
Residents who lived in buildings with trees reported fewer
crimes. From an analysis of Chicago Police Department records,
HERL researchers determined that buildings in areas with
large amounts of vegetation had 52 percent fewer crimes
than buildings in areas with little vegetation.
Residents who lived in buildings with trees have significantly
better relations with their neighbors developed in part
from more frequent gathering in common areas with trees
then those without trees.
Children with Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) experienced a decrease in
their symptoms after playing in a natural environment. This
in turn resulted in restored focus and improved concentration
in the classroom.
Girls, ages 7 through 12 who
had increased exposure to nature had increased self-discipline,
better concentration and reduced impulsive behavior. However,
the HERL researchers did not find a relationship between
boys and views of nature.
and a Room with a View.
Dr. Rachel Kaplan conducted a survey of workers' job satisfaction
and rate of illness. Some participants in her study could
view nature settings from their work areas, while others could
not. Dr. Kaplan discovered that workers who could view nature
claimed to be more satisfied with their job; felt challenged
by their work and reported better overall health than their
co-workers who were unable to view nature. http://snr.unl.edu/forestry/urbanforestry.htm
In the past, forests have been valued primarily for economic
reasons. Today, vast arrays of social benefits are appreciated.
The emerging field of ecopsychology explores interrelationships
between humans and their environment and tries to quantify
the less tangible values of nature. While it may seem obvious
that a view of a forest is more relaxing than a view of a
freeway, scientific research is now beginning to confirm and
expand our understanding of the human/nature relationship.