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Urban Green Space and Mental Wellness

May has been designated as National Mental Health Awareness Month to raise awareness about the importance of mental health to overall human health. Many factors contribute to mental health and wellness, including biological factors, experiences, and lifestyle, but the built and natural environments that surround us also play a critical role.

tkf-mental-wellness3Our friends at the TKF Foundation have worked with researchers Kathleen Wolf, PhD (University of Washington) and Elizabeth Housley, MA ( to produce Reflect & Restore: Urban Green Space for Mental Wellness, a research brief that draws on four decades of research.

The report is chock-full of evidence about the benefits of green space for mental wellness — from lowering stress to creating a stronger sense of community to reducing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms. The research brief underscores why even small bits of nature in the city are so important.

“The key message, confirmed by literally hundreds of studies, is that across all age groups, and in diverse cultural groups, there is a recurring positive response to small scale, often unremarkable, natural settings in cities. Some responses, such as mood change or a sense of relaxation may be personally felt, while other reactions, such as reduced blood pressure or cortisol levels, are happening at the subconscious level.”

Landscape architects are paramount in creating many of these green spaces, defined in the research brief as urban landscapes, gardens, parks or any private or public spaces where natural elements are key components. We’re checking and adding to make sure that all of the research cited is part of our Landscape Performance Series Fast Fact Library, where you can find over 120 statements of landscape benefits derived from published research addressing a range of environmental, economic, and social impacts. 

  1. Landscape Architecture FoundationJun 2nd, 2014 10:45am
    Landscape Architecture Foundation said:

    Thank you, Kathy, for the research brief, for sharing the WEF article, and for all of your good work to assess and spread the word about the benefits of green and good design!

  2. Kathy WolfMay 30th, 2014 3:55pm
    Kathy Wolf said:

    So happy to see that this report is being shared with the landscape architecture community (and other designers)! Design is so important to 'elevate' the benefit level of metro nature settings. Kudos to LAs! For instance, this recent article suggests how to design for co-benefits of health in stormwater facilities:

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