Nature helps humans recover faster from surgery


Roger Ulrich is a professor wanted to know how nature affects humans psychologically and physiologically. His seminal research wanted to test whether we recover better when around nature. He found that we recover faster from surgery by being around nature, even something as simple as seeing a tree from your hospital window can significantly improve recovery rate!

His research has provided evidence for his psycho-evolutionary theory, which states that nature can provide “in addition to aesthetic preferences, a broad range of emotional and physiological arousal responses to natural configurations and content, including recovery or restoration“. Which essentially means that it has a positive effect on our mental and physical state.

The study

The seminal study by Ulrich (1984) was looking at the effect of nature on the recovery of surgery patients post-operation. They measured five variables from each patient record: (1) number of days of hospitalization; (2) number and strength of analgesics each day; (3) number and strength of doses for anxiety, including tranquilizers and barbiturates, each day; (4) minor complications, such as persistent headache and nausea requiring medication; and (5) nurses notes relating to the patients condition during recovery.

What did they find?

This study found that “patients assigned to rooms with windows looking out on a natural scene had shorter postoperative hospital stays, received fewer negative evaluative comments in nurses’ notes, and took fewer potent analgesics than 23 matched patients in similar rooms with windows facing a brick building wall.” There was no difference between the amount of antianxiety drugs taken, however the wall-viewing patients took more potent narcotic analgesics which makes them drowsy and sedated, which could of reduced their need for antianxiety drugs.

What does this mean?

This finding shows us that humans have an inherent connection to nature, that it not only makes us feel better psychologically (recent research has look at this connection with well-being), but can also affect us physiologically. We can actually heal faster simply but being around nature.

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