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Rosalie J. Kelley, Tina M. Waliczek and F. Alice Le Duc

The mental health of the men and women who served in the U.S. Armed Forces is an area of great concern in the United States. Studies have shown the mental health of university students is also a concern with a growing need for support services and prevention measures. The main objective of this study was to determine the effects of participation in particular greenhouse activities on depression, anxiety, and stress levels of students who served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The study included a control group and a treatment group. Participants completed a pre- and post 21-item Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale (DASS-21) survey, along with a questionnaire designed to capture participants’ demographic information and information regarding their military service history. The treatment consisted of a 6-week indoor plant care program. Results of the study found that student veterans who participated in the plant care class had decreased levels of depression and stress when compared with the control group. In the post-test open-ended questions, student veterans described a noticeable feeling of reduced stress along with the ability to relax while having feelings of a sense of place (belonging). Participants also indicated that they would continue to grow plants as a hobby.

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Claudia C. Collins and Angela M. O'Callaghan

This study used quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate the impact of indoor gardening on elderly residents of a low-income assisted living facility over a 4-week period. Mastery, self-rated health, and self-rated happiness were pre-, post-, and post-post measured to evaluate whether a short-term introduction of indoor gardening that involved individual plant-care responsibility would improve these measures that are predictive of health and quality of life. Eighteen residents participated in four 2-hour interactive horticulture classes taught by a social horticulturist and a sociologist. Class members showed a significant increase in mastery, self-rated health, and self-rated happiness. The results of this study indicate that a basic horticultural activity, as simple as learning how to maintain a houseplant and taking individual responsibility for one, can have a short-term positive impact on the quality of life and on primary indicators of future health outcomes of older adults residing in assisted living facilities.

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Erja Rappe and Sirkka-Liisa Kivelä

Depression is a major health problem among the elderly. Its prevalence is high among those in long-term care. Exposure to the garden environment may alleviate depressive symptoms, but there is little research evidence to confirm this hypothesis. In this study we investigated the perceived effects and meanings related to garden visits among older individuals living in long-term care and assessed whether there are associations between experiences from garden visits and self-rated depression. Data were gathered by surveying 30 elderly people living in Kustaankartano, a nursing home and service center for elderly people in Helsinki, Finland. Prevalence of self-rated depression was high; 46% of the participants were depressed. Both being in the garden and seeing it from the balcony and observing nature were of great significance for most of the participants. For more than half of the participants, visiting the garden improved mood, quality of sleep, and ability to concentrate; it generated feelings of recovery and promoted peace of mind. Affective effects of visiting the garden tended to be more pronounced among the depressed than among those not depressed. The depressed did not consider social interaction and participation in social activities very important for their well-being. Depression tended to be related to perception of the residents that they experienced hindrances and distresses associated with visiting the garden. Although there were indicative differences between the depressed and nondepressed participants in garden experiences, the results suggest that visiting the garden may affect the subjective well-being of both groups positively.

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Tina Bringslimark, Terry Hartig and Grete Grindal Patil

Laboratory experiments and quasi-experimental field studies have documented beneficial effects of indoor plants on outcomes such as psychophysiological stress, task performance, and symptoms of ill health. Such studies have taken an interest in the value of indoor plants in work settings, but they typically have not considered how the effects of plants might compare with effects of other workplace characteristics. The present study makes an initial attempt to situate the potential benefits of indoor plants in a broader workplace context. With cross-sectional survey data from 385 Norwegian office workers, we used hierarchical regression analyses to estimate the associations that plants and several often-studied workplace factors have with perceived stress, sick leave, and productivity. Other variables included in our models were gender, age, physical workplace factors (e.g., noise, temperature, lighting, air quality), and psychosocial workplace factors (demands, control, social support). After controlling for these variables, the number of indoor plants proximal to a worker's desk had small but statistically reliable associations with sick leave and productivity. Although small, such associations can have substantial practical significance given aggregation over the large number of office workers over time.

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Jennifer S. Doxey, Tina Marie Waliczek and Jayne M. Zajicek

The main objective of this research was to investigate the impact of plants within a university classroom setting on course performance and on student perceptions of the course and instructor. The study was designed to include a minimum of two classes of the same coursework taught by the same professor in the same room during one semester. Three sets of two classes each and 385 students were included within the study. Throughout the semester, the experimental class of students was treated by including an assortment of tropical plants within the classroom. Plants were not present in the control classroom of the study. The official university course and instructor evaluation survey was administered at the end of the semester. Additionally, each student provided demographic data, including class rank, gender, and ethnicity. To measure course performance, the professor for each course reported each student's grade for the course. No statistically significant differences were found in comparisons of grades/student course performance (P = 0.192). However, statistically significant differences were found in comparisons of overall course and instructor evaluation scores of treatment and control groups (P = 0.065). Statistically significant differences were found in comparisons of the individual courses/classrooms between control and treatment groups on statements in subsections of the course and instructor evaluation survey, including the areas of “learning,” “enthusiasm (of instructor),” and “organization (of instructor).” In these comparisons of the treatment and control groups, the differences that were most apparent were in students who had class in the classroom that was windowless and stark. The plants appeared to have the greatest impact on students in the room that was void of other natural elements.

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Ruth Kjærsti Raanaas, Grete Grindal Patil and Terry Hartig

Effects of an indoor plant intervention in a Norwegian rehabilitation center were assessed in a quasi-experiment. During a 2-year period, coronary and pulmonary patients (N = 282) completed self-report measures of health, subjective well-being, and emotion on arrival, after 2 weeks, and at the end of a 4-week program. The intervention involved the addition of indoor plants for the second year. On average, patient physical and mental health improved during the program, but the addition of plants did not increase the degree of improvement. Subjective well-being did, however, increase more in patients who went through their program after the addition of plants, although the effect was only apparent in the pulmonary patients. The patients reported more satisfaction with indoor plants and the interior generally after the intervention. Room for the intervention to affect outcomes may have been limited by the well-designed interior and the center's location in a scenic mountain area, but these favorable features of the context apparently did not negate the potential for indoor plants to contribute to patient well-being.

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Tove Fjeld

Plants are widely used in building environments; however, studies reporting the health and discomfort symptoms of people in response to indoor foliage plants are few. The objective of the presented studies was to assess the effect of foliage plants or a combination of foliage plants and full-spectrum fluorescent lamps on self-reported health and discomfort complaints in three different work environments: an office building, an X-ray department in a Norwegian hospital, and a junior high school. Health and discomfort symptoms were found to be 21% to 25% lower during the period when subjects had plants or plants and full-spectrum lighting present compared to a period without plants. Neuropsychological symptoms, such as fatigue and headache, and mucous membrane symptoms, such as dry and hoarse throat, seemed to be more affected by the treatments than skin symptoms, such as itching skin.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A well-known research report showed that being in a hospital room with a view of trees rather than a view of a building was linked to the use of fewer pain-reducing medications by patients recovering from surgery. The experiment reported here was designed to further examine the role of plants in pain perception. We found that more subjects were willing to keep a hand submerged in ice water for 5 min if they were in a room with plants present than if they were in a room without plants. This was found to be true even when the room without plants had other colorful objects that might help the subject focus on something other than the discomfort. Results from a room assessment survey confirmed that the room with colorful, nonplant objects was as interesting and colorful as the room with plants present, but the presence of plants was perceived as making the air in the room fresher.

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Caroline H. Pearson-Mims and Virginia I. Lohr

Interiorscaping has been prevalent in office environments in the United States since the 1960s. Historically, proponents of interior plantings have cited numerous benefits, including improved employee morale, increased productivity, and reduced absenteeism when plants are added to the workplace, despite little scientific research to support these claims. Contemporary research is beginning to document some of these purported benefits of interior plantings on human comfort, well-being, and productivity. If researchers continue to provide concrete evidence that interaction with plants is directly linked to improved human health and well-being, this information will provide further justification for the use of interior plants in a variety of indoor work settings. With an ever-increasing emphasis by business managers on minimizing costs, it is important for industry professionals to provide quantifiable justification for the inclusion of plants in modern work environments.

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Virginia I. Lohr and Caroline H. Pearson-Mims

A nationwide phone survey of attitudes toward urban trees, participation in civic or educational activities, and memories of childhood experiences with gardening and nature was conducted with 2004 adults in large urban areas. We analyzed the influence of 11 childhood experiences and five adult demographic characteristics on three items: “Trees in cities help people feel calmer,” “Do trees have a particular personal, symbolic, or spiritual meaning to you?” and “During the past year, have you participated in a class or program about gardening?” Growing up next to natural elements such as flower beds, visiting parks, taking environmental classes, and gardening during childhood were associated with stronger adult attitudes and more actions. Growing up next to urban elements, such as large buildings, had a small, but opposite, influence. Demographics played a role in adult attitudes and actions. While both passive and active interactions with plants during childhood were associated with positive adult values about trees, the strongest influence came from active gardening, such as picking flowers or planting trees. These results indicate that horticultural programs for children raised in urban surroundings with few or no plants can be effective in fostering an appreciation for gardening in adults.