University of Vermont Extension 
Department of Plant and Soil Science

Anytime News Article


THE SOCIAL VALUE OF LANDSCAPING

Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
 
 
In addition to economic and environmental benefits, landscaping provides social and health benefits.  These are often referred to as “human services”—physical health, mental health and functioning, and community health and safety.  Many of these will then translate into economic benefits as well.

One of the first studies on plants and psychology confirmed that hospital patients recover more quickly when they have a view of nature.  Some newer hospitals around the country are incorporating this into their design and landscaping, as are some Japanese hospitals with “ecology gardens”.  Restorative gardens are used in many hospices for treating patients.
 
A more recent study showed that office workers with a view of nature are more productive, report fewer illnesses, and have higher job satisfaction.  Interior plants also can be beneficial to workers, increasing productivity and reducing stress.

The fastest and most cost-effective way to improve an area, according to the Partners for Livable Places, is to add plants.  They maintain plants can change negative perceptions of an area, and improve the economic and social conditions there.  Views of green spaces from homes lead to their occupants having better perceptions of well-being and their neighborhoods.

Studies in public housing neighborhoods show that having trees can lower levels of fear, reduce violent and aggressive behavior, and encourage better neighbor interactions.  In Chicago,
an analysis showed that buildings with lots of greenery had about half as many crimes as those with no greenery, trees, or landscaping.  Residents who participate in planting programs, such as
those in Oakland planting trees, report a stronger sense of community, better communication with neighbors, and a feeling of more control over their local environment.

If school children have access to natural settings, as in landscapes, they show fewer ADHD symptoms and girls show more self-discipline in academics. College students also benefit from views of plants, reducing stress, reducing fear and anger, and generating more positive feelings after an exam. 

A view of green, landscaped grounds has been shown to be important to virtually all residents of surveyed retirement communities, and three times as important as a view of activity areas.  The landscape is one of the most important considerations in the choice of a particular retirement community.

In regards to your own physical health, you can burn as many calories by gardening for 45 minutes as in 30 minutes of aerobics.  Weeding for one hour is the same as walking or bicycling at a moderate pace, burning 300 calories.  Pushing a mower for an hour is the same as playing tennis, burning 500 calories.  One study specifically on women showed that those 50 and older who gardened at least once weekly had higher bone density than those who did common exercises such as aerobics, walking, or jogging.  The Sloan Kettering Institute in New York found that if women spend time in a garden they recover more quickly from breast cancer.

More on the social benefits of plants, and using horticulture to improve human well being, can be found from the American Horticulture Therapy Association (www.ahta.org).
      

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