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The health benefits of contact with nature in a park context: A review of relevant literature. 2nd...

Key Message

There are many and varied health effects to be derived from contact with nature, and, in urban environments in particular, experiencing nature through parks may be a vital component of human health.

Source

Maller, Cecily et al. (2008). Healthy parks, healthy people - The health benefits of contact with nature in a park context: A review of relevant literature. 2nd ed. Melbourne, Australia: Deakin University, School of Health and Social Development.

Purpose

This revised review updates research compiled and published in an earlier edition (completed in 2002 with funding provided by Parks Victoria and the International Park Strategic Partners Group) and aims to provide key information for park and open space managers, health professionals, researchers, and others with an interest in this area, while retaining its status as a platform for future research. The significance of the health and wellbeing benefits from interacting with nature, including in park settings, the implications for public health, and the need for collated up-to-date information on this topic cannot be over-estimated.

Evidence

Evidence in the literature shows that among other benefits viewing nature is positive for health in terms of recovering from stress, improving concentration and productivity, and improving psychological state, particularly of people in confined circumstances such as prisons and hospitals.

Wilderness and related studies clearly demonstrate that being in a natural environment affects people positively, particularly in terms of mental health. There are also multiple benefits from brief encounters with nature, or experiencing nature on a smaller scale, such as in urban parks. Surveys have shown that nature is important to people, and the numbers of people seeking nature-based recreation are increasing.

Plants and nearby vegetation can have profound effects on individuals, small groups, or even entire neighbourhoods. Some health benefits of interacting with plants include facilitation of healing in the elderly and mentally disadvantaged, improving mental capacity and productivity of office workers, improving job and life satisfaction of residents, attracting consumers and tourists to shopping districts, and aiding community cohesion and identity.

A large body of research demonstrates that contact with companion animals has multiple positive physiological and psychological effects on human health including: decreasing blood pressure, heart rate, and cholesterol; reducing anxiety and stress and providing protection against stress-related diseases; provision of companionship and kinship; and the opportunity to nurture. All of these factors improve quality of life and enhance health and wellbeing. Parks and other natural environments such as beaches are important in providing a setting for pet-owners to interact both with their pet and with other pet-owners and parks users, which can positively influence the social aspects of health. In addition, parks are essential in the preservation of habitat for native wildlife, as well as providing people with the opportunity to observe or encounter animals in their natural environment.
Parks and other natural environments are a fundamental health resource, particularly in terms of disease prevention.  (Executive Summary).

Benefit Statements / Outcomes

Leadership Provided By:

  • Leisure Information Network (LIN)
  • Alberta Recreation and Parks Association

On Behalf Of:

  • Canadian Parks and Recreation Association (CPRAA)

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