We’re looking at some research on the positive impact of landscaping and, specifically, plants & flowers to mental, physical, emotional & even economic realms. As we talked about last week, research is showing a correlation between an increase in children’s focus & concentration (resulting in higher grades) and time spent either outdoors among landscaped areas or in a plant-filled environment routinely. Along that same vein, here is further support for the practical side of plants:
- Get outside: it improves focus for adults, too, even if it’s cold & ugly out. University of Michigan psychology research studied the effects on two groups of study participants sent on walks around either the U or M’s Botanic Gardens or Ann Arbor’s downtown city streets. The researchers then tested short-term memory on both groups and found that the downtown-walkers showed zero improvement in memory or focus while the nature-walkers improved their short-term memory by 20%. The theory was retested with groups gathered indoors and asked to concentrate on pictures of either nature scenes or cityscapes. Again, the nature group showed 20% short-term memory improvement while the downtown group showed no improvement. Additionally, researchers found no difference in results from walks performed in 25 degree January weather or 85 degree July weather- the only difference was that, not surprisingly, the participants enjoyed the summer walks more. (http://ns.umich.edu/new/releases/6892)
- Flowers feed compassion: a behavioral study conducted by Harvard University researchers found that people who lived with flowers in their homes for less than a week felt more compassion toward others. There were less negative feelings reported about other people as well as a decrease in anxiety and generalized worry. These positive feelings reportedly carry over into work environments, too. If spending a few days with a simple arrangement on the kitchen counter can have a noticeable impact on well-being, it seems logical to start cutting from the garden or stop by the local florist more often. (http://www.magnetmail.net/actions/email_web_version.cfm?recipient_id=13080921&message_id=223012&user_id=SAFlorists)
- Green Spaces Reduce ‘Health Gap’: there are undeniable health inequalities reflecting differences in lifestyle and diet due to income disparity, which generally means that people living in poorer areas are more likely to be unhealthy and die earlier. However, research conducted by two Scottish Universities (University of St Andrews & Glasgow University) found that living near parks, woodland or open spaces helped reduce these inequalities, regardless of social class. They actually found that even small parks in the heart of our cities can protect us from strokes and heart disease, perhaps by cutting stress or boosting exercise. Hundreds of thousands of records of people who died over a period of four years were analyzed to find a correlation between plentiful access to green spaces and incidences of fatal diseases, with the biggest impact being seen on risk of heart diseases and stroke. The health gap was halved between those who lived near a large amount of green space and those who lived near none or very little. Although the effect was greatest for those living around the most greenery, the study revealed that even tiny green spaces in the areas in which study participants lived made a noticeable difference to their risk of fatal diseases. When it comes to urban planning, this study offers evidence that the positive effects of green spaces go well beyond simple beautification. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7714950.stm)
- Potted Plants Speed Post-Surgery Recovery: Kansas State University researchers are reporting that the presence of potted plants in hospital rooms speeds recovery from surgery. The study looked at 90 patients post-appendectomy who were randomly assigned to hospital rooms (some with plants and others without), and revealed that patients with plants in their rooms had significantly fewer intakes of pain medication, more positive physiological responses (lower blood pressure and heart rate), less pain, anxiety, and fatigue. This is a cost-effective method for providing a non-pharmacological approach to pain management & faster recovery in surgery patients which should be considered by doctors, nurses, and health insurers as well. (http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2008-12/asfh-fps122608.php)
These snippets have highlighted the measureable benefits of plants on health. Next up, we’ll look at some benefits on economics.