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Green environments essential for human health
Date:4/19/2011

Research shows that a walk in the park is more than just a nice way to spend an afternoon. It's an essential component for good health, according to University of Illinois environment and behavior researcher Frances "Ming" Kuo.

"Through the decades, parks advocates, landscape architects, and popular writers have consistently claimed that nature had healing powers," Kuo said. "But until recently, their claims haven't undergone rigorous scientific assessment."

Kuo is also the director of the Landscape and Human Health Laboratory at the U of I and has studied the effect of green space on humans in a number of settings in order to prove or disprove the folklore notions.

"Researchers have studied the effects of nature in many different populations, using many forms of nature," Kuo said. "They've looked at Chicago public housing residents living in high-rises with a tree or two and some grass outside their apartment buildings; college students exposed to slide shows of natural scenes while sitting in a classroom; children with attention deficit disorder playing in a wide range of settings; senior citizens in Tokyo with varying degrees of access to green walkable streets; and middle-class volunteers spending their Saturdays restoring prairie ecosystems, just to name a few."

Kuo says that although the diversity of the research on this subject is impressive and important, even more important is the rigor with which the work was conducted.

"In any field with enthusiasts, you will find a plethora of well-meaning but flimsy studies purporting to 'prove' the benefits of X," Kuo said. "But in the last decade or so, rigorous work on this question has become more of a rule than an exception. The studies aren't simply relying on what research participants report to be the benefits of nature. The benefits have been measured objectively using data such as police crime reports, blood pressure, performance on standardized neurocogni
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Contact: Debra Levey Larson
dlarson@illinois.edu
217-244-2880
University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Source:Eurekalert  

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