Therapeutic Studies

Workpackage 4 – Therapeutic studies
Led by Chris Gidlow (STAFFS)

It is broadly accepted that exposure to natural environments is beneficial for human health. Yet, evidence to support the various posited underlying mechanisms is largely inconclusive. WP2 takes an epidemiological approach to explore the strength of evidence in representative populations in different partner countries. WP4 will take an experimental approach to measure changes in specific psychological and physiological indicators as healthy and patient populations are exposed to different environmental conditions. This will improve current understanding of which mechanisms best explain potential preventive and therapeutic health benefits of natural environments.

A review published in 2010 of evidence for the added benefits to health of exposure to natural environments highlights the need for further research to elucidate mechanisms of stress reduction, restorative function, behaviour (i.e., physical activity), and social interaction. Collectively, the PHENOTYPE partner countries will look at these specific mechanisms in patient and non-patient populations, exploring applications of preventive and therapeutic effects of urban and different types of natural environment. In contrast to many previous experimental studies, all data collection will be field-based to maximise the ecological (as well as internal) validity of any observed effects (laboratory used for control conditions only).

PHENOTYPE partners in Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain and UK will undertake one or more experimental studies in which individuals are exposed to different types of urban and natural environments, where appropriate comparing with laboratory controls. The inclusion of different natural environments and exposures beyond basic green space proximity, including blue space, environmental pollutants, and controlling for factors such as sunlight, represents a step forward in this area.

In addition to physiological indicators, subjective hedonic and eudaimonic wellbeing measures will be used, with self-report measures of affect and life satisfaction. These will be complemented by previously used measures of psychological and social well-being.

Natural outdoor environment, mechanisms and health data input.