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Title:Access to nature and adolescents’ psychological well-being
Author(s):Li, Dongying
Director of Research:Sullivan, William C.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Sullivan, William C.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):McLafferty, Sara; Chang, Chun-Yen; Kwan, Mei-Po; Deal, Brian
Department / Program:Landscape Architecture
Discipline:Landscape Architecture
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
adolescents' well-being
space-time access
causal relationship
Abstract:Previous research has demonstrated positive associations between the greenness of high school landscapes and school-wide academic performance. We do not know, however, if green landscapes cause better performance or if the association between the two is a product of self-selection. If there is a causal relationship, the pathways through which green school landscapes affect student performance remain unclear. Furthermore, evidence regarding exposure to nature and adolescents’ everyday stress in ecologically valid settings is lacking. We do not know, for example, whether adolescents who hang out in greener places – compared to their peers who hang out in less green places – during their daily activities experience less stress or better moods. Lack of this knowledge prevents landscape architects from making informed design and management decisions that help create places where children thrive. In addition, methods that can capture adolescents’ travel patterns and actual interactions with their environments are needed in health research. To address these issues, this dissertation includes a review of the current literature and two empirical studies: the Window View study and the Nature Tracking study. In the Window View study, I hypothesize that views to green landscapes help students recover from mental fatigue and stress. To test these hypotheses, I conducted an experiment with 94 high school students at five high schools. Participants were randomly assigned to three kinds of classrooms: 1) without windows, 2) with windows that opened onto a built space, 3) with windows that opened on to a green space. Participants engaged in typical classroom activities followed by a break in the classroom to which they were assigned. I measured participants attentional functioning using a standard battery of test and their physiological stress using a Biofeedback device. Results demonstrate that classroom views to green landscapes cause significantly better performance on tests of attention and increase student's recovery from stressful experiences. A lack of mediation effect demonstrates that attention restoration and stress recovery are two distinct processes. Implications for school site selection, design and renovation are discussed. In the Nature Tracking study, I hypothesize that the density of daily exposure of green landscapes is positively associated with adolescents’ moods. I proposed an approach that combines GPS tracking and Google Street View image processing to capture the concentration of nature in adolescents’ everyday environments and examined its relationship with their mood. A total of 155 participants wore a GPS device for four days and completed an online survey every evening in which they recorded their activities and moods. Results suggest that higher concentrations of nature are associated with less mood disturbance on a daily basis, even after controlling for intra- and inter-individual characteristics. This relationship did not vary by population group. Implications for designing the urban space to promote adolescent health are discussed. These studies are among the first to describe the cause relationship between nature, attention and stress for adolescents in educational settings, as well as the association between varying concentrations of nature and moods in everyday settings. There are multiple important methodological contributions regarding the use of physiological measures of stress, GPS tracking and Google Street View image processing. The findings of the study should be of interest to designers, policy makers, and public health providers. Building on the study methods and findings, I propose a design workflow. Instead of focusing on the physical characteristics of the urban setting, I start with a site reading of people’s movement through and interactions with the urban space. The design framework with specific small scaled urban insertions can be responsive to user’s affective states and thus facilitate the bottom-up design process.
Issue Date:2016-11-30
Rights Information:Copyright 2016 Dongying Li
Date Available in IDEALS:2017-03-01
Date Deposited:2016-12

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