Public health study: Private gardens are more restorative than lounges
It is no surprise that most users of private green spaces generally consider them to be very restorative. In the recent study by MedUni Vienna, respondents rated gardens as being significantly more restorative than their lounges, balconies or terraces. It seems that the decisive factor is the relationship the user has with the garden, as was demonstrated by the research group led by Health Psychologist Renate Cervinka of MedUni Vienna’s Center for Public Health. The study has been published in the specialist journal Urban Forestry & Urban Greening.
Research into relaxation and restoration has long been interested in the beneficial health effects of spending time in Nature and in green spaces. The recent study conducted by Renate Cervinka, Markus Schwab, Regine Schönbauer, Isabella Hämmerle, Laura Pirgie & Jennifer Sudkamp of the Center for Public Health at MedUni Vienna was able to identify which factors are important for relaxation and restoration in a private garden.
811 people aged between 16 and 82 took part in the questionnaire-based survey. They rated the restorative value of their private lounges, terraces, balconies and gardens. The survey revealed that gardens are experienced as being significantly more restorative than balconies or terraces, for example. Renate Cervinka explains what makes gardens especially restorative: “Our survey revealed that the restoration factor increases in proportion to the number of natural elements present in the garden.” It therefore depends on more than the just the planting and garden furniture.
The study does not show any significant differences based on gender or age. Women value time spent in the garden just as much as men, and old people just as much as young people. However, the study did throw up one limitation. “The degree of restoration depends to a large extent upon a person’s ability to switch off,” says Cervinka. It is only by letting go of one’s everyday worries in the garden that you can make the most of its restorative potential.
However, the most important factor in restoration is one’s personal relationship to the garden. People who enjoy their gardens, are happy with them and value them, experience a resonance with them and are able to relax and recover. “As with any good relationship, it is important that the garden meets the user’s needs and that both garden and user continue to evolve together,” explains Cervinka. “The message is that you should design your garden to be as close to nature as possible but, above all, you should enjoy it.”
The study provides suggestions for actions in the areas of public health, green care, garden education and garden therapy. The follow-up study is already underway and should deepen our knowledge about the health-promoting effects of private gardens. In addition, it will also look at communal gardens, school gardens and therapeutic gardens.