Four evidence-based research studies confirm contributions of urban nature to health and well-being
28 Feb 2022
- Key research study conducted by NParks find that clinically depressed individuals experience benefits from passive exposure to therapeutic gardens.
- Two new therapeutic gardens in Bedok Reservoir Park and Pasir Ris Park open
Four evidence-based research studies conducted by the National Parks Board (NParks) with research partners have found that urban nature contributes positively to the health and well-being of residents.
The research studies not only contribute to the formulation of science-based urban nature planning, management, and design in Singapore, but are among the first few studies in the world which demonstrate the impact of gardening on mental resilience and the relative importance of different types of urban nature during the COVID-19 pandemic. Another study found that there were positive neuropsychophysiological benefits from passive exposure to a therapeutic garden for the mental health of individuals with clinically-concerning depressive disorders.
These research studies have been published in international peer-reviewed journals and provide scientific support for the City in Nature programme to increase the social resilience of Singaporeans.
Complementing the findings from the research studies, NParks today opened two new therapeutic gardens at Bedok Reservoir Park and Pasir Ris Park. The gardens are the first two gardens in the east of Singapore and brings the total of therapeutic gardens in the network to nine. NParks aims to establish 30 therapeutic gardens across Singapore by 2030 as we work towards transforming Singapore into a City in Nature, bringing forth benefits to health and well-being through greenery.
Research on contributions of urban nature to health and well-being
While there is universal agreement that urban nature provides a suite of benefits to people, such as improvement to health and well-being, understanding of the specific types and extent of benefits from different forms of urban nature, and how landscape design can be used to improve benefits provided are limited.
NParks conducted the four pieces of research between 2018 to 2021 focusing on investigating and quantifying the health and well-being benefits of exposure to greenery.
The evidence-based research pieces come under a research framework that focuses on understanding how people’s physical and mental health are affected by (1) landscape design; (2) importance of use of parks and greenery; and (3) horticultural programmes.
One key study evaluated the neuropsychophysiological responses in clinically depressed and healthy participants to the Therapeutic Garden @ HortPark in comparison to other green and non-green urban spaces. It found that visiting therapeutic gardens with contemplative features may provide valuable support for the treatment of depression in clinical populations and function as a self-care intervention for maintenance of positive mental well-being in non-clinical populations. Conducted between 2018 to 2021, this study was conducted in collaboration with Department of Psychological Medicine at the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, National University of Singapore (NUS Medicine).
Similarly, a second study conducted in 2018 and 2019 with Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health conducted using smartphone-based ecological momentary assessments, found that participants who visited parks during the day were less stressed on the same evening than those who did not visit parks.
The third and fourth studies were conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic in the last two years. The third was in relation to the Gardening with Edibles programme which found that those who gardened had better mental resilience. This leads to implications that interventions like gardening may be useful in mitigating the adverse effects of stress brought about by the pandemic. The last study looked at the influence of the pandemic on the demand for different types of green spaces. It found that although mobility restrictions had tempered the use of urban parks during the Circuit Breaker, the demand for such green spaces exceeded pre-COVID-19 levels once the restrictions were reduced, highlighting the importance of urban green spaces during the pandemic to meet the diverse needs of Singaporeans in areas of physical activities, appreciation of nature, spending time with others and appreciating wildlife.
New therapeutic gardens at Bedok Reservoir Park and Pasir Ris Park
Two new therapeutic gardens were opened today at Bedok Reservoir Park and Pasir Ris Park.
The 1650sqm therapeutic garden @ Bedok Reservoir Park overlooks the scenic Bedok Reservoir and is the first therapeutic garden to be built over a former sand quarry. Reflecting this heritage, NParks has designed an interactive rock feature with stones and boulders. The garden also has a pavilion and an inter-generational fitness corner and outdoor physiotherapy area with fitness equipment. The 1600sqm Therapeutic Garden @ Pasir Ris Park is located 67m from the sea making it the first therapeutic garden that offers a view of the sea and some of Singapore’s “kelongs”. The garden features a swale which functions as a naturalised drain, adding to the tranquillity of the garden.
The development of the Therapeutic Garden @ Bedok Reservoir Park is supported by a contributions from Mr Peter Lim and the Tote Board through the Garden City Fund while the development of the Therapeutic Garden @ Pasir Ris Park is supported by a contribution from the Tote Board through the Garden City Fund.
NParks will be partnering eldercare centres and senior activity centres in the vicinity of the therapeutic gardens to conduct therapeutic horticulture programmes. These programmes were offered at the therapeutic gardens in HortPark, Choa Chu Kang Park, Bishan-Ang Mo Kio Park and Tiong Bahru Park, and were run twice a month for group sign-ups before it was discontinued temporarily due to COVID-19 related restrictions. The sessions, customised to the needs of the seniors, were designed to stimulate participants’ senses and memories through interaction with nature as well as to encourage motor and hand-eye coordination.
Upcoming therapeutic gardens
NParks opened its largest therapeutic garden at Jurong Lake Gardens, with a dedicated section for children in September 2021. In November 2021, we announced an upcoming wellness garden at East Coast Park which includes a therapeutic garden. Two other therapeutic gardens at Sembawang Park and West Coast Park will open this year. More details will be shared when ready.
For more information on NParks’ therapeutic gardens, please visit, https://www.nparks.gov.sg/gardens-parks-and-nature/therapeutic-gardens.
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