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Washington, D.C. 20078-5500

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Forest and Quality of Life

Simply stated..People need trees

When 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 of aggression.

Habitat for People

At the University of Illinois Human-Environment Research Laboratory
(HERL,, 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 findings:

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 behavior.

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.

Job Satisfaction 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.


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.




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 Last Modified: Monday, Dec 16, 2013 at 02:19 PM CST