Measuring Biophysical and Psychological Stress Levels Following Visitation to Three Locations with Differing Levels of Nature.

Affiliation

School of Kinesiology and Recreation, Illinois State University; [Email]

Abstract

Visitation to natural environments has been linked to psychological stress reduction. Although most stress-related research has relied on self-report formats, a growing number of studies now incorporate biological stress-related hormones and catalysts, such as cortisol and α-amylase, to measure levels of stress. Presented here is a protocol to examine the effects on levels of biophysical and psychological stress following visitation to three different locations with differing levels of nature. Biophysical and self-reported psychological stress levels are measured immediately upon entering the selected locations and just prior to the visitors leaving the site. Using a "drool" method, the biophysical measure consists of 1-2 mL samples of saliva provided by study subjects upon entry to one of three study locations. As prescribed by extant literature, the saliva is collected within a 45 minute time frame following the end of the visitor's engagement at the location. Following saliva collection, the samples are labeled and transported to a biological lab. Cortisol is the biophysical variable of interest in this study and measured using an ELISA process with a TECAN plate reader. To measure self-reported stress, the Perceived Stress Questionnaire (PSQ), which reports levels of worry, tension, joy, and perceived demands. Data are collected at all three sites in the late afternoon through early evening. When compared across all three settings, stress levels, as measured by both the biological markers and self-reports, are significantly lower after visitation to the most natural setting.

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