The Effects of Special Natural Places on Human Health, Experience and Values

Thank you for your interest in the University of Calgary research project on the effects of nature on human experiences, wellness, and values. This website is part of the PhD research study entitled “Effects of specially designated natural places on human health, experience, and values.”

All focus groups are now complete. Preliminary results are expected in mid-2015.

Thank you for your interest and support.

This research examines the effects of spending one hour in a natural place on human health and wellness, and on the connection with the natural world people feel after nature experiences.

In this study, 30+ participants visited both an urban and a natural setting in groups of ten, where they will sit quietly for one-hour. Before and after each site visit, the researcher tested participants for a variety of stress indicators such as cortisol levels – measured with saliva samples – blood pressure, and heart rate. Participants also completed a short questionnaire.

This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through the University of Calgary Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board (CHREB).  Any final decision about participation is yours. If you have any comments or concerns resulting from your participation in this study, please contact Chair, Conjoint Health Research Ethics Board, University of Calgary at 403-220-7990.

Ethics ID: REB13-0440


This research project, entitled “Effects of designated special natural places on human wellness, experience, and values” is being completed as part of the requirements for a PhD in the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program at the University of Calgary.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY?

This research will examine the therapeutic effects of experiences in nature on human health and wellness, and on the connection with the natural world people feel after nature experiences.

STUDY AREA

This study will cover the area from Northwest Calgary to Banff National Park.

KananaskisRegion_20110505e

(map courtesy Alberta Tourism, Parks and Recreation).

BACKGROUND

While conservation is the main goal of parks and protected areas, these places also provide many economic, social, and personal benefits. In recent years, Richard Louv reignited popular discourse on the disconnect between people and nature with the hypothesis that people are afflicted by “nature-deficit disorder.” A rich and growing body of research supports an increasing call to use nature experiences in parks to overcome this disconnection and to promote human health and wellness.

Although research related to the health benefits of experiencing nature is growing, most studies rely on self-reporting of wellness or stress. This offers invaluable insights, but incorporating standardized medical indicators of health effects such as cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate, can build credibility and support among medical practitioners and policy-makers.

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE STUDY?

This research will examine the therapeutic effects of experiences in nature on human health and wellness, and on the connection with the natural world people feel after nature experiences. In this phase of the research project, 60 members of the public (in groups of ten) will visit both an urban and a natural setting outside the city. Before and after each trip, the researcher will test participants for a variety of stress indicators and administer a questionnaire.

STUDY PARTNERS

This research is supported by Alberta Parks and the Stoney Nakoda Tribal Administration

To contact the researcher, email information@naturehealthresearch.ca


RESULTS

Fall, 2014

Field studies and interviews are completed! The research “by the numbers”:

42,261 hits on this website (a total of 955 unique visitors)
3797 quantitative data points collected
2659 qualitative data fields collected
2586km driven in a rental van
$1020 in honorariums 
415 litres of fuel
223 applicants
170 surveys
139 blood pressures 
136 saliva samples
136 signed forms (consent, confidentiality, re-consent, re-contact)
128 oxygen saturation readings
102 emails
83 qualified applicants
34 participants (340 volunteer hours)
20 pages of field notes
17 interviews
16 hours of recordings
12 field days
9 lawn chairs
9 iPads
7 umbrellas
6 elder consultations 
5 trips to Edmonton
4 ice packs
2 First Nations presentations
2 blood pressure cuffs
2 boxes in the freezer marked “phd samples (fluid from strangers)”
2 broken umbrellas
2 large duffle bags
2 deer fawns
1 pulse oximeter
1 satellite phone
1 provincial park
1 provincial recreation area
1 sacred site
1 research permit
1 cougar

Preliminary results are expected in summer, 2015.


July 5 – Great to be interviewed about the Nature Health Research study on CBC Calgary’s Eyeopener morning show. Hear the entire interview here: