What is it about urban nature that helps us reduce stress? Does gardening provide greater benefits than exercising in the park? In comparing the stress-reduction capacities among different urban recreational spaces and activities, this project aimed at identifying the components of urban nature causing these health benefits.
Cities are a stressful environment to live in: Not only are there more stressors present in urban environments than in rural environments (e.g. noise, air pollution, urban heat island effect), cities also provide fewer areas which are suitable for recreation. Surveys found that many people are under permanent stress from work and other sources. Chronic stress has severe negative consequences for human health (complete physical and mental wellbeing).
Urban nature in general – and parks and gardens in particular – provides an important means of recreation for city dwellers. Wellbeing effects of nature have consistently been demonstrated in previous research, not however the mechanisms that bring about these effects. This project aimed at reducing this lack of knowledge. To this end, allotment gardens and other urban recreational spaces were compared with one another. The investigated types of spaces afforded different combinations of potential mechanisms for the recreational effects of nature. To quantify health effects, not only subjective measurements were used (e.g. self-reported health) but also physiological data will was collected (in particular, the “stress hormone” cortisol was measured in the participants’ hair). In trying to better understand the mechanisms underlying health benefits from urban nature, this research projects aimed at contributing to the protection and optimization of urban nature.
As a result of this study, we published several scientific papers, for example:
- Mathias Hofmann, Christopher Young, Tina M. Binz, Markus R. Baumgartner, Nicole Bauer. Contact to nature benefits health: Mixed effectiveness of different mechanisms. In: International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 15(1), pp. 31. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph15010031, full text available at: mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/1/31
- Tina M. Binz, Franziska Gähler, Clarissa D. Vögel, Mathias Hofmann, Markus R. Baumgartner, Thomas Kraemer. Systematic investigations of endogenous cortisone and cortisol in nails by LC-MS/MS and correlation to hair. In: Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, 410(20), pp. 4895–4903. DOI: 10.1007/s00216-018-1131-6
- NZZ am Sonntag: Gärtnern tut dem Yuppie gut (in German; 19 August 2018)