Oz study reviews evidence of wood's impact on health and well-being

Thu 22 Jun 2017

The health and wellbeing benefits associated with spending time outside in nature are well known and have been studied extensively by the scientific community. These known benefits include:

• Increased happiness and self-esteem levels

• Increased cognitive abilities

• Decreased stress response, blood pressure, pulse rates and cholesterol levels

However increasing urbanisation means that people have less access to nature in their daily lives and Australians on average now spend over 90% of their time indoors. This coincides with reports of increasing levels of obesity and nearly half of Australians experiencing a mental health condition within their lifetime. As it is not always possible to increase our time spent outside, particularly in areas like workplaces, schools and hospitals, understanding how to incorporate the physiological and psychological benefits of nature into our indoor environments is an increasingly important area of research. Studies have demonstrated that simply having a view of nature from a window can have significant positive effects, such as shorter postoperative hospital stays11, induced feelings of relaxation in patients at rehabilitation centres and improved comfort levels of employees in offices. Not surprisingly the presence of indoor plants has also been shown to have benefits, such as improved cognitive functioning in office environments, increased tolerance of pain in hospital and lowered blood pressure and heart rate. 

Evidence-based design (EBD) is an area of study that focuses on incorporating the results of empirical research into the quality of the built environment. Originating from the field of environmental psychology, EBD works on the notion that the design of the built environment fundamentally impacts the people within it. Of particular interest are designs of physical features that can lead to stress-reduction, productivity and general wellbeing. Since evidence shows viewing nature in both outdoor and indoor settings has health and wellbeing benefits for people, it is logical to examine whether wood, a natural material, produces similar effects.

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