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Nature is good for you, right?

Is it possible that one day your physician may prescribe a walk in the woods for what ails you? Although writer Richard Louw's notion of a "Nature Deficit Disorder" doesn't appear in medical manuals of diagnosis and treatment, a growing body of studies may suggest the notion has some merit.

This effort to understand whether nature might heal drives the research of Frances "Ming" Kuo, PhD, who directs the University of Illinois' Landscape and Human Health Laboratory. Debra Levey Larson got an update from Kuo on this work for Futurity, just in time for Earth Day:

Access to nature and green environments yields better cognitive functioning, more self-discipline and impulse control, and greater mental health overall, while less access is linked to exacerbated attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms, higher rates of anxiety disorders, and higher rates of clinical depression.

...Greener environments enhance recovery from surgery, enable and support higher levels of physical activity, improve immune system functioning, help diabetics achieve healthier blood glucose levels, and improve functional health status and independent living skills among older adults.

By contrast, environments with less green space are associated with greater rates of childhood obesity; higher rates of 15 out of 24 categories of physician-diagnosed diseases, including cardiovascular diseases; and higher rates of mortality in younger and older adults..

Previously: Out-of-office autoreply: Reaping the benefits of nature
Photo by Craig Wyzik

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