A number of studies have demonstrated how direct contact with vegetation or nature leads to increased mental health and psychological development. Recent data show that depression and other mental-health disorders will account for some of the world’s largest health problems in upcoming decades. People do not have to actively use nature to benefit from it; rather, visual exposure is enough. It is important to consider that different groups of people have differing views of what constitutes nature in the built environment, with variation by education level, age, ethnicity, profession, residential location, etc.
Design for Health (DFH) Materials
- Planning Information Sheet: Influencing Mental Health with Comprehensive Planning and Ordinances (622 KB)
- Key Questions Research Summary Mental Health(866 KB)
- Image Resources
- Topical Planning Guides
- Comprehensive Plan Review Checklists
- Example Plans
- Healthy Nature Healthy People
This systematic review of the literature on parks and human health finds benefits in stress reduction. Published in Health Promotion International it is available at many university libraries.
- Active Living Research: Tools and Measures
This Web site provides links to over fifteen urban-design and park audit tools, produced by researchers from a variety of institutions, including the University of Minnesota, Harvard School of Public Health, and the University of Western Australia.
- The Trust for Public Land Center for City Park Excellence
This center has conducted a number of studios on the benefits of parks including those associated with heath.
InformeDesign is a research and communication tool for designers. Its search engine provides research summaries on many health themes. Each article summary has the following elements: design issue, design criteria, key concepts, research method, limitations, and commentary.
- Sustainable Sites Initiative
This collaboration between the American Society of Landscape Architects, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, and the United States Botanic Garden has produced voluntary guidelines and benchmarks for site planning and land design. One of the areas of focus of this tool is on human health and well-being.
- Therapeutic Landscapes Network
Focusing on gardens and other landscapes, with a particular emphasis on gardens in healthcare settings, the web site of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network is a well-designed and maintained resource. Its section on evidence-based design includes online searchable databases and lists of books and articles.