Interaction with indoor plants may reduce psychological and physiological stress by suppressing autonomic nervous system activity in young adults: a randomized crossover study

J Physiol Anthropol. 2015 Apr 28;34(1):21. doi: 10.1186/s40101-015-0060-8.


Background: Developments in information technology cause a great deal of stress to modern people, and controlling this stress now becomes an important issue. The aim of this study was to examine psychological and physiological benefits of interaction with indoor plants.

Methods: The study subjects were 24 young male adults at the age of 24.9 ± 2.1 (mean ± SD). The crossover experimental design was used to compare the differences in physiological responses to a computer task and a plant-related task. Subjects were randomly distributed into two groups. The first group (12 subjects) carried out transplanting of an indoor plant, whereas the second group (12 subjects) worked on a computer task. Then, each subject switched activities. The psychological evaluation was carried out using the semantic differential method (SDM) and physiological evaluation using heart rate variability (low-frequency (LF) and high-frequency (HF) components) and blood pressure.

Results: Analysis of the SDM data showed that the feelings during the transplanting task were different from that during the computer task: the subjects felt more comfortable, soothed, and natural after the transplanting task than after the computer task. The mean value of total log[LF/(LF + HF)] (sympathetic activity) increased over time during the computer task but decreased at the end of the transplanting task, and the differences were significant. Furthermore, diastolic blood pressure was significantly lower after the transplanting task.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that active interaction with indoor plants can reduce physiological and psychological stress compared with mental work. This is accomplished through suppression of sympathetic nervous system activity and diastolic blood pressure and promotion of comfortable, soothed, and natural feelings.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology*
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Gardening*
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Stress, Psychological
  • Task Performance and Analysis
  • Young Adult