By Katy Levine ’06
Abstract: The natural environment has restorative and stress reducing benefits. This study analyzes the use of nearby nature by hospital visitors, a group of people who are typically at risk for stress and mental fatigue. Study participants were visitors of the University of Michigan Hospital System (UMHS) who were residing at the Ann Arbor Ronald McDonald House (RMH), a residence for family members of hospitalized children. The study involved suggested walking routes in Nichols Arboretum (Arb) and a series of before and post walk survey instruments to measure mental fatigue and stress. In addition, a survey instrument to measure awareness and perception of the Arb was administered. The results of this study indicate that walking in nature is restorative and stress reducing for hospital visitors. In addition, these results indicate that there is a need to better inform hospital visitors about nearby nature. The results also suggest that longer-term visitors may take more walks in nearby nature and that walk materials, such as short defined routes and guidelines, may be particularly useful for hospital visitors. It should be noted that the results of this study are based on a small sample size. Additional research should be conducted to provide greater statistical evidence. This paper concludes by recommending methods to increase hospital visitor awareness of nearby nature and ways to enhance hospital visitors’ experiences in nearby nature.