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Restorative Environments and Health

Chapter
Part of the International Handbooks of Quality-of-Life book series (IHQL)

Abstract

The vast majority of people live in urbanized areas. These offer numerous advantages, such as access to a great variety of entertainment and cultural events, services such as educational and medical centers, and opportunities for mixing with different kinds of people in lively public places. Urbanized areas also challenge residents, however, with pollution, crowding and information overload. The effort to deal with the various demands of everyday urban life taxes the physical, psychological and social resources of residents and, over time, this may impair their health. During the past few decades, environmental psychologists have initiated research into the role that the sociophysical environment plays in restoring people’s diminished capabilities. This chapter focuses on restorative environments, which promote people’s health and well-being by supporting their recovery from efforts to meet the demands of everyday life. We first discuss some basic concepts, including health, restoration and the theories that have guided research to date. Then, we move on to describe some key findings in the research area, with particular regard to the restorative potential of different settings in and around cities and their implications for urban residents’ health and well-being. The research evidence concerning environmental supports for restoration is organized into four sections: the residential context, work and school settings, care settings, and other settings. Overall, the results obtained show that restoration is more likely to occur in environments that offer contact with nature, from wilderness to a window view of trees. Most of the empirical studies we review refer to environments with natural elements and features; however, not all restorative environments offer contact with nature, and we also discuss the restorative qualities found in other settings, such as monasteries, museums and urban plazas. In covering the research on these different environments, we consider a variety of short-term psychological benefits that reflect restorative processes, such as improvements in emotional states, the ability to concentrate, and the capacity to inhibit impulsive behavior. We also consider how achieving long-term health goals, such as weight control, might be facilitated by repeated restorative experiences. The empirical evidence obtained over the past few decades offers some guidance for environmental design and planning that can boost the restorative quality of residential areas, workplaces, schools, hospitals and other settings of everyday life. We close by discussing these practical implications and by making recommendations for future research.

Keywords

Adaptive cost Attention restoration Experience of nature Green space Mental fatigue Stress recovery Urban nature 

Notes

Acknowledgement

Partial support came from the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (PSI-2013-44939).

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© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and SociologyUniversity of ZaragozaTeruelSpain
  2. 2.Centre for Energy and Environmental Research, Social and Organizational PsychologyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  3. 3.Department of Social Psychology and MethodologyUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  4. 4.Institute for Housing and Urban ResearchUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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