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Conference abstract, 2011

Preferred qualities in a therapy garden that promote stress restoration

Palsdottir, Anna Maria; Grahn, Patrik; Stigsdotter, Ulrika; K


Preferred qualities in a therapy garden that promote stress restoration Keywords: Inclusive design, stress-related illnesses, public green spaces, health promotion. Theme: Physical environment, health and wellbeing. According to the World Health Organization it is estimated that by the year 2020 the second largest health problem in the world will be stress-related illnesses (WHO 2011). Stress is not an illness but prolonged stress due to the lack of opportunities to rest and recover is harmful for the health (Aldwin, 2007; Atkinsson et al. 1996). Research suggests that natural, environment; parks and gardens have beneficial effects on people’s recovery from mental fatigue and reduce stress level (Björk et al., 2008; Grahn et al., 2010; Nielsen & Hansen, 2007; Ulrich, 2006). Studies have shown that people perceive outdoor environments in terms of quality dimensions, so called Perceived Sensory Dimensions (PSD) (Grahn et al., 2005; Grahn & Stigsdotter, 2010). Further, it is suggested that there is a beneficial relationship between PSD and a person’s perceived level of stress (Grahn & Stigsdotter, 2010). The aim of the study was to identify which PSDs patients perceived as supportive and restorative in a therapeutic garden. Forty two patients, all diagnosed with stress related illnesses, were recruited after undergoing 12 weeks rehabilitation program in the therapy garden. Methodological triangulation was used including one-hour interview with each person, location mapping of supportive and restorative locations in the garden and a questionnaire on PSD qualities for same locations. From the questionnaire we identified four PSDs that are perceived as supportive and restorative: Refuge; Serene, Prospect and Comfort. From interviews, we identified what is a merge of the two PSDs Nature and Rich in species, referred to as Wild. This dimension was considered the most important for perceived stress restoration. Also, the results indicate that individuals suffering from stress-related illnesses are very sensitive to stimuli and frequently avoid public green places with many different stimuli and impressions. In order to meet the needs of a fast growing group of users we recommend the dimensions Refuge, Serene, Prospect, Comfort Nature, and Rich in species to be included in design of public green spaces since these dimensions offer possibilities for restoration. References: Aldwin, C. (2007). Stress, Coping, and Development, 2nd edn, New Ykrok: Guilford. Atkinson, R.L., R.C., Smith, E.E., Bem, D.J. and Noelen-Hoeksema, S. (1996). Hilgard´s Introduction to Pscychology, Fort Worth, Tex.: Harcourt Brace Collage. Björk, J., Albin, M., Grahn, P., Jacobsson, H., Ardö, J., Wadbro, J., Östergren P-O., Skärbäck E. (2008) Recreational values of the natural environment in relation to neighborhood satisfactions, physical activity, obesity and wellbeing. J. Epidemiol. Commun. H 6, e2. Grahn, P. & Stigsdotter U.K. (2010) The relation between perceived sensory dimensions of urban green space and stress restoration. Landscape and Urban planning 94, 264-275. Grahn, P., Stigsdotter, U.K., Berggren-Bärring, A.-M. (2005). Human isues. In: Werquin, A.C. Duhem, B. Lindholm, G., Opperman, B., Pauleit, S., Tjalling, S. (Eds.). Green Structure and Urban Planning, ESF. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg. pp. 240-248. Grahn, P. Tenngart Ivarsson, C. Stigsdotter, U.K. and Bengtsson, I-L. (2010) Using affordances as a health-promoting tool in a therapeutic garden, in Ward-Thompson, C., Aspinall, P. & Bell, S. (eds.) Innovative Approaches to Researching landscape and Health. Open Space: People Space 2. Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, London & New York. Nielsen, T.S., Hansen, K.B., (2007) Do green areas affect health? Results from a Danish survey on the use of green areas and health indicators. Health Place 13, 839-850. Ulrich, R.S. (2006) Evidence-based health-care architecture. Lancet 368,S38-39. WHO (2011). Depression. Programs and Projects. Mental health. World Health Organization. [January 2011]


Inclusive design; stress-realted illnesses; public green spcae; health promotion

Published in

Book title: Open Space : People Space 3 : An international conference on Research into Inclusive Outdoor Environments for All : Conference Proceedings Summary papers and abstracts : Edinburgh, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-904443-49-0
Publisher: OPEN space Research Center, Edinburgh College of Art


Open Space : People Space 3

Authors' information

Pálsdóttir, Anna María (Palsdottir, Anna Maria)
K Stigsdotter, Ulrika
University of Copenhagen

UKÄ Subject classification

Economics and Business
Social Sciences
Landscape Architecture

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