Irvine, California, November 17, 2022 – According to a study conducted by the University of California, Irvine, pregnant women exposed to an environment of green spaces in a virtual reality environment experienced lower blood pressure and improved mental health and well-being. -be.
In an article recently published in Environmental researchCo-corresponding author Jun Wu, Ph.D., professor of environmental and occupational health in the UCI Public Health Program, examined the short-term responses of urban pregnant women exposed to a virtual reality green space.
“Even short exposure to a virtual green space environment showed reduced physiological and emotional stress in pregnant women,” Wu said. “It’s not the same as the real world, but this study helps to inform urban planners who create urban spaces. This proves the importance of green spaces for the well-being and mental health of the population living in these spaces.
There is extensive research on the positive impacts of exposure to green spaces on health and well-being, including reduced risk of mortality, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes; better pregnancy outcomes such as a decreased risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery; and better mental health. However, exploration of the link between physiological mechanisms and green spaces in special populations, such as pregnant women, is lacking.
The researchers recruited 63 healthy pregnant women from Beijing to participate in the randomized, double-blind study. They started by triggering anxiety among them via a lab-developed stress test. Next, the women watched three five-minute 360-degree videos of urban environments: one depicting a park-like environment, the second consisting of a street view with green space, and the third featuring a view of the street without green space.
Before and after the videos, the researchers measured the participants’ blood pressure, heart rate, and skin conductance level; saliva samples collected; and administered a positive (i.e., attentive, active, alert, excited, enthusiastic, determined, inspired, proud, interested, or strong) and negative (i.e., hostile, irritable, ashamed, guilty, upset, frightened, frightened, nervous or nervous emotions).
The team found that visual exposure to a VR green space environment was associated with lower systolic blood pressure, reduced salivary alpha-amylase (a stress indicator), improved emotions positive feelings and a decrease in negative emotions in relation to the non-green space environment. The park-like setting garnered the highest positive reaction among the three videos.
The researchers suggest that future studies of the same type consider different “mixes” of urban green spaces; computer-generated scenarios versus real natural environments; and short-term and long-term impacts.
Other corresponding co-authors of this study are Yi Sun, Ph.D., of the UCI Program in Public Health and Liyan Xu of the College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, Peking University. Co-authors include Fu Li, Ph.D., and Jie Yin of Peking University; Tao He of the UCI program in public health; Yaohan Meng of Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences and Peking Union Medical College; and Ilona S. Yim, Ph.D., UCI Professor of Psychological Sciences.
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