“Contact with nature not only feels good to people and is pleasant and attractive, but may have real health benefits
”, according to Dr. Howard Frumkin, professor and chair of environmental and occupational health at the Emory University Rollins School of Public Health. In a study published in the April 2001 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, Dr. Frumkin notes that research often centers upon the hazardous effects of environments, such as chemicals or radiation. He looks at the other side of the coin- that “some kinds of environmental exposures may have positive health effects.” Interaction with nature, through animals, landscapes, plants or wilderness may prevent and treat illnesses.
Trees, Not Bricks
The article review several studies that suggest that even simply looking at nature
can improve a person’s health. One study compared surgical patients whose room had a view of trees with those whose room had a view of a brick wall. “The patients that had a view of trees from their rooms had one day shorter hospitalization on average, less need for pain medications and fewer negative nursing notes” according to Dr. Frumkin.
Another study found that prisoners with views of rolling landscapes from their cells had fewer doctor visits than inmates whose cell windows faced a prison courtyard. In another, workers who had views of nature reported fewer headaches.
Frumkin admits he doesn’t quite know how all this works. “Maybe it’s stress reduction. Maybe there’s something even deeper than that. Maybe there are some biochemical pathways (in the brain) that respond to contact with nature that would have had to have been developed over thousands of generations of evolutionary time”. The implications are great
for a society where so many spend their days in sterile office environments. Further study is needed, but in the meantime pet a dog, go for a hike or simply be sure to pause to enjoy the next sunset.
American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2001, Vol 20, No 5, p 234-240