Washington: A new study has revealed that turning vacant lots into attractive green plots may make life less stressful for city residents.
University of Pennsylvania study found that residents who walked near newly greened vacant lots had significantly lower heart rates compared to walking near a blighted, or neglected, vacant lot.
Lead author Eugenia C. South said that their goal was to scientifically explore the connection between city environments and stress, adding that they used heart rate as a physiologic marker of acute stress, and the reduction they found suggests a biological link between urban blight reduction strategies like vacant lot greening and reductions in stress.
The results support the conclusion that proximity to greened lots versus trash-strewn lots results in lower heart rates. In response to an acute stressor, the body activates the sympathetic nervous system, resulting in the release of epinephrine, which in turn increases heart rate.
Thus, higher heart rates at unexpected moments and because of urban blight, which can be ubiquitous in some city neighborhoods, can be inferred to be evidence of stress. Heart rate change has been used in a few previous studies to evaluate acute stress response, although primarily in indoor laboratory settings.
The study's senior author, Charles C. Branas, added that this research on greening urban lots provides an important scientific impetus for urban planners and city officials to take relatively low-cost steps toward improving health for their residents.
Branas noted that future trials that dynamically measure additional biological information, such as cortisol levels (another marker of stress) and blood pressure are now warranted to further advance our understanding of the relationship between stress and blighted urban environments.
The study is published online by the American Journal of Public Health.