Exploring the relationship between trees and stress in the urban environment

Townsend, Joseph B.
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University of Delaware
The research literature describes a positive relationship between seeing plants and human well-being. More rapid recovery from surgery, reduced incidence of neighborhood crime, increased baby birth weight and increased trust of neighborhood merchants are among the benefits attributed to exposure to trees and shrubs. This thesis attempts to find a common explanation for these outcomes. It examines the connection between urban trees and community stress. Each of the above outcomes can be attributed, in part, to stress reduction. The literature indicates that stress reduction is one of the consequences of exposure to plants. Stress levels were measured at the block level in Wilmington Delaware by means of a survey mailed to 1982 residents. Physical conditions were catalogued using an on-site inventory. The survey and inventory demonstrated that the total number of trees on a block has a strong negative relationship with community stress and a positive relationship with self-reported health. The results suggest that moderation of stress is one of the factors that underlies the beneficial consequences of exposure to green vegetation on inner city blocks. This research should prove useful to city planners and urban residents alike.