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Doctoral thesis, 2011

Nature and public health

Annerstedt, Matilda


Nature’s potentially positive effect on wellbeing may serve as an important resource for population health. Based on theories mainly derived from environmental psychology this resource has been explored in varied scientific studies the last century. This has rendered a substantial amount of empirical evidence for different beneficial effects of natural environments on health. The aim of this thesis was to consider these effects from a public health perspective. The state of the art for nature as intervention was xplored by a systematic review designed in accordance with the Cochrane principles. Different landscape types’ effect on stress and mental health were studied by one cross-sectional survey study and one longitudinal epidemiological study. Finally physiological stress recovery reactions by a standardized nature setting were examined in an xperimental randomized betweengroup study in a virtual reality laboratory. The different methodological aspects contributed to a broad entrance to the subject. In combination with the broad subject as such this spawned reflections upon the scientific approach and the thesis aims to some extent to mirror these reflections from an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary viewpoint. A very short and simplified conclusion of the thesis would be that a small evidence base of the efficiency of nature assisted therapy is in line with the findings of certain nature qualities as resources for recovery from stress and reducing the risk for mental health problems, and that this may partly be mediated by an active relaxation mechanism within the parasympathetic nerve system. The findings may have implications for the contemporary disease scenario and the expected rise in non-communicable diseases and mental disorders. Policies and actions for public health should consider populations’ living environments and promote access to nature.


public health; natural environment; psychological factors; stress; mental health; epidemiology; broadleaved forests; interdisciplinary

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2011, number: 2011:98
ISBN: 978-91-576-7642-9
Publisher: Department of Work Science, Business Economics, and Environmental Psychology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

Annerstedt, Matilda (Annerstedt, Matilda)

Associated SLU-program

Built environment

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Health and Occupational Health
Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology

URI (permanent link to this page)