The thematic research program Forest and Health examines whether and how human health is affected by a stay in the forest environment.
The research area is new and has not previously existed in the Faculty of Forest Sciences at SLU. The program is led by the researchers Ann Dolling and Ylva Lundell. The graduate students Elisabet Sonntag-Öström and Patrik Umaerus coordinate some of the projects.
Forest and Health is an interdisciplinary program which is working closely together with medical doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists and others at the Stress Clinic, University Hospital of Umeå, researchers at the Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine, Department of Psychology at Umeå University and Department of Geography and Economic History as well as researchers at SLU in Umeå and Alnarp.
Forest and Health is funded by the Faculty of Forest Sciences (SLU), Sveaskog forest company, Umeå municipality, the Swedish Forest Agency, the Swedish Forest Society, Petersson-Grebbe foundation and Västerbotten County Council. The two graduate students are funded by the Centre for Environmental Research (CMF), Umeå, and the research council Formas.
Program coordinators: Mail address
Coordinator for projects 2 and 4:
Coordinator for project 3:
Forest and Health includes the following projects:
1) EnRest (Environments for Rest)
"A comparative study of two stress-recovery environments"
The project studies if a stay in the forest, or in a craft environment, can reduce stress levels and if any of the environments is better than the other in curing stress. The intention is also to find out what aspects in the environment that are affecting a possible mental recovery. In this project, persons with high stress levels visit one of the environments two times a week for 3 months. The project was finished in June 2012 and is now being evaluated.
2) ForRest (Forests for Rest)
"Nature's role in stress and chronic fatigue syndrome"
The project investigates whether staying in the forest environment can provide restoration effects and accelerate recovery in patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. We also study the forest environments that are perceived restorative, what components in them that are of importance and what silviculture actions that are needed in forest management in order to be able to use them as rehabilitation forests.
People with chronic fatigue syndrome have participated in the project where half of them were randomly assigned to spend two hours a week for 3 months in one of eight different forest environments. The other participants were randomly assigned to control group. All participants (forest and control groups) get, after the three initial months, cognitive behavioural group rehabilitation for six months. The field part of the project ended in the autumn of 2011. Evaluation of the project will be included in the coming thesis of PhD E. Sonntag-Öström.
3) Green rehabilitation in family forest farms from a rural perspective.
Swedish forestry has traditionally been based on timber production. In this project we investigate biological and institutional barriers and opportunities in alternative types of economic activities in small family forest farms, and their importance for the local economy.
"The immediate effects of outdoor environment on stress and burnout"
In this project, we compare how a short stay (less than an hour) in different forest environments affect the health of people with chronic fatigue syndrome. The environments used in the study are three different forest environments and one urban environment. The project ended in the autumn 2012. Evaluation of the project will be included in the coming thesis of PhD E. Sonntag-Öström.
5) A GPS-study of choice of environment for people with stress-related fatigue
The project investigates by use of GPS in detail where in different forest environments that people diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome prefer to reside. The project is a subproject of project ForRest, where participants had to select the forest environment for their stay during the project. The field part of the project ended in December 2012.
6) The optimal character and management of rehabilitation forests in combination with timber production
The project intends to a) on the basis of the large data sets collected for the project ForRest and the projects undertaken in collaboration with Alnarp rehabilitation garden, "transfer" the mental and rehabilitative experience in people with chronic fatigue syndrome to forest characters and forest data, 2) identify rehabilitation forests and their distribution in the landscape, 3) by using the Heureka-system as planning tool do scenario analysis of how the proportion of forest rehabilitation in combination with forestry for timber production could be optimized with minimal economic loss. The project is conducted in collaboration with SLU in Alnarp and started in 2011.
- Lundell, Y. & Dolling, A. 2010 Kan skogsmiljöer användas vid rehabilitering av människor med utmattningssyndrom? Fakta Skog, nr 13 (In Swedish)
- Sonntag-Öström, E., Nordin, M., Slunga Järvholm, L., Lundell, Y., Brännström, R., & Dolling, A. 2011 Can the boreal forest be used for rehabilitation and recovery from stress-related exhaustion? A pilot study. Scandinavian Journal of Forest Research 26: 245-256.