A dose of nature: Tree cover, stress reduction, and gender differences

Bin Jiang, Chun Yen Chang, William C. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although it is well established that exposure to nearby nature can help reduce stress in individuals, the shape of the dose-response curve is entirely unclear. To establish this dose-response curve, we recruited 160 individuals for a laboratory experiment. Participants engaged in the Trier Social Stress Test (TSST) to induce psychological stress, and were then randomly assigned to view one of ten, 6-min, 3-D videos of neighborhood streets. The density of tree cover in the videos varied from 1.7% to 62.0%. We measured their stress reactions by assessing salivary cortisol and skin conductance levels. Results show a clear disparity between women and men. For women, we found no relationship between varying densities of tree cover and stress recovery. For men, the dose-response curve was an inverted-U shape: as tree cover density increased from 1.7% to 24%, stress recovery increased. Tree density between 24% to 34% resulted in no change in stress recovery. Tree densities above 34% were associated with slower recovery times. A quadratic regression using tree cover density as the independent variable and a summary stress index as the dependent variable substantiated these results [R2=.22, F (2, 68)=9.70, p<.001]. The implications for our understanding of the impacts of nearby nature, and for the practice of planning and landscape architecture are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)26-36
Number of pages11
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • 3-D visual media
  • Dose-response curve
  • Salivary cortisol
  • Skin conductance
  • Stress reduction
  • Tree cover density

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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