Scientific American, March 12, 2012 p. 24
Nature that Nurtures
Dismissed as peripheral to medical treatment for much of the
20th century, gardens are back in style, now featured in the de-
sign of most new hospitals, according to the American Society of
Landscape Architects. In a recent survey of 100 directors and ar-
chitects of assisted-living residences, 82 percent agreed that "the
design of outdoor space should be one of the most important
considerations in the design." But can gardens, in fact, promote
healing? It turns out that they often can. Scientists around the
world are now digging into the data to find out which features of
gardens account for the effect.
The notion that the fresh breezes, dappled sunlight and fragrant
greenery of a garden can be good for what ails us has its roots in
ancient tradition and common sense. But a much cited study,
published in 1984 in the journal Science by environmental psy-
chologist Roger Ulrich, now at Texas A&M University, was the
first to use the standards of modem medical research‹strict
experimental controls and quantified health outcomes‹to
demonstrate that gazing at a garden can sometimes speed healing
from surgery, infections and other ailments.
Ulrich and his team reviewed the medical records of people
recovering from gallbladder surgery at a suburban Pennsylvania
hospital. All other things being equal, patients with bedside win-
dows looking out on leafy trees healed, on average, a day faster,
needed significantly less pain medication and had fewer postsur-
gical complications than patients who instead saw a brick wall.
The more greenery versus hard surfaces, the better. "We found
that a ratio of at least 7:3 seems to work best," Cooper Marcus says.
Less greenery signals a "plaza or shopping mall courtyard" and is
not as relaxing. '
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