Clinical Benefits of Trees Tied to Reduced Stress, Faster Surgery Recovery, and Decreased Use of Painkillers

In 1984, Roger Ulrich completed the best-known and most thorough study linking views of nature to hospital recovery. Records on recovery after cholecystectomy of patients in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital between 1972 and 1981 were examined to determine whether assignment to a room with a window view of a natural setting might have restorative influences.

Twenty-three surgical patients were assigned randomly to rooms that were identical except for window view. One member of each pair overlooked a small stand of deciduous trees; the other had a view of a brown brick wall.
Patients with the natural window view had shorter postoperative hospital stays, fewer negative comments in nurses’ notes (“patient is upset,” “needs much encouragement”), and tended to have lower scores for minor post-surgical complications such as persistent headache or nausea requiring medication. Moreover, the wall-view patients required many more inject[ion]s of potent painkillers, whereas the tree-view patients more frequently received weak oral analgesics such as acetaminophen.
The clinical benefits of a greater connection to the natural environment include reduced stress, faster recovery time, and decreased use of strong painkillers.
In a 1991 study by Terry Hartig and his associates (Mang and Evans), stressed individuals who took a forty-minute walk in an urban nature area dominated by trees reported improved emotional states and performed better at a proofreading task than equivalently stressed individuals that took a walk in an urban setting without trees. Terry Hartig followed up that study with one titled, “Toward Understanding the Restorative Environment as a Health Resource.”
A 1997 study by R. Miller found that employees who could look out their office windows and see trees and nature were happier at work.
A 1985 study by M.J. West discovered that prison inmates with views of nature had fewer health-related stress symptoms, such as digestive complaints and headaches, than prisoners with views of buildings or prison walls.
* Ulrich, R.S. 1984. View through a window may influence recovery from surgery. Science 224:420-421.
* Miller, R.W. 1997. Urban Forestry: Planning and Managing Urban Greenspaces. 2nd Edition. Prentice-Hall, New York, N.Y. 502pp.
* Hartig, T., Mang, M., and Evans, G.W. (1991) ‘Restorative effects of natural environment experience’, in Environment and Behavior, 23, 3-26.
* Hartig, Terry, “Toward Understanding the Restorative Environment as a Health Resource.” Institute for Housing and Urban Research, Uppsala University
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