University of Vermont Extension
Department of Plant and Soil Science
THE SOCIAL VALUE OF LANDSCAPING
Dr. Leonard Perry, Extension Professor
University of Vermont
In addition to economic and environmental
benefits, landscaping provides social and health benefits. These are often referred to as “human
services”—physical health, mental health and functioning, and community health
and safety. Many of these will then
translate into economic benefits as well.
One of the first studies on plants and
psychology confirmed that hospital patients recover more quickly when they have
a view of nature. Some newer hospitals
around the country are incorporating this into their design and landscaping, as
are some Japanese hospitals with “ecology gardens”. Restorative gardens are used in many hospices
for treating patients.
more recent study showed that office workers with a view of nature are more
productive, report fewer illnesses, and have higher job satisfaction. Interior plants also can be beneficial to
workers, increasing productivity and reducing stress.
The fastest and most cost-effective way
to improve an area, according to the Partners for Livable Places, is to add
plants. They maintain plants can change
negative perceptions of an area, and improve the economic and social conditions
there. Views of green spaces from homes
lead to their occupants having better perceptions of well-being and their
Studies in public housing neighborhoods
show that having trees can lower levels of fear, reduce violent and aggressive
behavior, and encourage better neighbor interactions. In Chicago,
analysis showed that buildings with lots of greenery had about half as many
crimes as those
no greenery, trees, or landscaping.
Residents who participate in planting programs, such as
planting trees, report a stronger sense of community, better communication with
neighbors, and a feeling of more control over their local environment.
If school children have access to natural
settings, as in landscapes, they show fewer ADHD symptoms and girls show more
self-discipline in academics. College students also benefit from views of
plants, reducing stress, reducing fear and anger, and generating more positive
feelings after an exam.
A view of green, landscaped grounds
has been shown to be important to virtually all residents of surveyed
retirement communities, and three times as important as a view of activity
areas. The landscape is one of the most
important considerations in the choice of a particular retirement community.
In regards to your own physical health,
you can burn as many calories by gardening for 45 minutes as in 30 minutes of
aerobics. Weeding for one hour is the
same as walking or bicycling at a moderate pace, burning 300 calories. Pushing a mower for an hour is the same as playing
tennis, burning 500 calories. One study
specifically on women showed that those 50 and older who gardened at least once
weekly had higher bone density than those who did common exercises such as
aerobics, walking, or jogging. The Sloan
Kettering Institute in New York
found that if women spend time in a garden they recover more quickly from
More on the social benefits of
plants, and using horticulture to improve human well being, can be found from
the American Horticulture Therapy Association (www.ahta.org).
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