How Parks Can Curb the Stress of a Pandemic

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Most people, even the most hardened New Yorkers, agree that nature and greenery have a remarkable ability to calm us, heal us, invigorate us. Oliver Sacks, a New Yorker for 50 years, wrote in a posthumously published essay that “living here is sometimes made bearable for me only by its gardens.”
In light of the coronavirus pandemic and its toll on New Yorkers’ mental health, researchers at The Graduate Center, CUNY are studying how parks and greenspaces mitigate stress.
Three scientists from the Environmental Sciences Initiative of the Advanced Science Research Center (ASRC) at The Graduate Center — Professor Andrew Reinman (GC/Hunter, Biology); Research Associate Professor Ricardo Toledo-Crow; and Professor Charles Vörösmarty (GC/City College; Earth and Environmental Sciences/Civil Engineering), director of the Environmental Sciences Initiative — are collaborating with Professor Yoko Nomura (GC/Queens, Psychology) and Graduate Center Ph.D. student Melissa Huang, who study the effects of psychological stress associated with the coronavirus pandemic on pregnant women and the development of their children before and after birth.
The COVID/Stress in Pregnancy study uses an online survey, and the ASRC scientists added questions to the survey aimed at understanding the way each participant spends time in greenspaces and parks, such as by taking nature walks or reading; the composition of the greenspaces, ranging from forests to lawns; and the participant’s perception of these spaces, including whether they are littered or safe.
“Results are expected to show that having greenspace nearby decreases the level of stress among mothers with worries related to the coronavirus crisis,” Nomura explains. “Even if the park is closed, the fact that people are surrounded by greenery provides psychological support.” 

Submitted on: APR 21, 2020

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