More green space equals less stress (as measured by cortisol)

A project team which includes Rich Mitchell has just published a study showing that cortisol circulation (a marker of stress) is more favourable in areas with greater amounts of green space. The team was led by Catharine Ward Thompson, at OpenSpace research centre. The study is the first to show effects of green space on biomarkers of stress in everyday (i.e. non-experimental) settings. It’s published in Landscape and Urban Planning and you may be able to read it here . The study is part of the wider GreenHealth project, in which CRESH plays a large part. It was funded by the by the Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services (RESAS) Division. For those without access to the journal, here’s the abstract:

Green space has been associated with a wide range of health benefits, including stress reduction, but much pertinent evidence has relied on self-reported health indicators or experiments in artificially controlled environmental conditions. Little research has been reported using ecologically valid objective measures with participants in their everyday, residential settings. This paper describes the results of an exploratory study (n = 25) to establish whether salivary cortisol can act as a biomarker for variation in stress levels which may be associated with varying levels of exposure to green spaces, and whether recruitment and adherence to the required, unsupervised, salivary cortisol sampling protocol within the domestic setting could be achieved in a highly deprived urban population. Self-reported measures of stress and general wellbeing were also captured, allowing exploration of relationships between cortisol, wellbeing and exposure to green space close to home. Results indicate significant relationships between self-reported stress (P < 0.01), diurnal patterns of cortisol secretion (P < 0.05), and quantity of green space in the living environment. Regression analysis indicates percentage of green space in the living environment is a significant (P < 0.05) and independent predictor of the circadian cortisol cycle, in addition to self-reported physical activity (P < 0.02). Results also show that compliance with the study protocol was good. We conclude that salivary cortisol measurement offers considerable potential for exploring relationships between wellbeing and green space and discuss how this ecologically valid methodology can be developed to confirm and extend findings in deprived city areas to illuminate why provision of green space close to home might enhance health.

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