Cities are a stressful environment to live in: Not only are there more stressors present in urban environments than in rural environments (e.g. noise, air pollution, urban heat island effect), cities also provide fewer areas suitable for recreation. Surveys found that many people are under permanent stress from work and other sources. Chronic stress has severe negative consequences for human health (complete physical and mental wellbeing). Urban nature in general – and parks and gardens in particular – provide an important means of recreation for city dwellers.
Wellbeing effects of nature have consistently been demonstrated in previous research, not however the mechanisms that bring about these effects. This project aims at reducing this lack of knowledge. To this end, allotment gardens and other urban recreational spaces will be compared with one another. The investigated types of spaces afford different combinations of potential mechanisms for the recreational effects of nature. To quantify health effects, not only subjective measurements will be used (e.g. self-reported health) but also physiological data will be collected (in particular, the “stress hormone” cortisol). In trying to better understand the mechanisms underlying health benefits from urban nature, this research projects wants to contribute to the protection and optimization of urban nature.