To discover potential correlations between contact with nature and health conditions, researchers at Seattle’s University of Washington (UW) recently posed the question “how do you measure a ‘dose’ of nature?” with a focus on lifestyle and environmental planning.
Research efforts that explore the relationship between contact with nature and health could potentially lead to public health insights, a UW release said.
Since so many people reside in cities, and because current technology tends to enable sedentary lifestyles, a team led by Howard Frumkin, an environmental and occupational health professor at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health, pinpointed possible links between contact with nature and obesity, heart disease, cancer and depression and/or anxiety, with the results published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
“As we show particular forms of nature contact to be effective (for reducing stress), we’ll have treatments that are inexpensive, safe, widely available and useful for a wide range of conditions and that don’t need to be administered by highly trained professionals,” Frumkin said in the release.
"At a time when health care costs are skyrocketing, our population is aging, the opioid epidemic has reached alarming proportions and mortality is actually rising for some groups, innovative approaches to prevention and treatment are much needed,” Frumkin said in the release. “Nature contact may well be one such approach.”
The release said more research should explore the relationship between exposure to nature and the health of at-risk populations, such as the elderly and children. The release noted that children often are spending more time sitting with electronic devices than going to a park or engaging in outdoor play.
Pooja Tandon, a UW assistant professor and study co-author, said in the release that it is vital to understand “the preventive and therapeutic benefits of nature for children’s health and development."
UW’s efforts are intended partly to assist urban and land-use planning, keeping functional green space in mind as metropolitan areas continue to develop. Architecture, interior design and other specialties stand to benefit from the knowledge gained by the study, according to the faculty members involved.