Background: There is a growing recognition that environmental design impacts health and well-being. Nature contact is a design feature or exposure that is especially important in public health and healthcare. To date, there are limited findings on the impact of nature sounds.
Objective: This experimental study was designed to examine the effect of nature sounds on physiological and psychological stress.
Methods: Participants were randomized into one of three groups-silence (n = 9), nature sound (n = 17), and classical music (n = 14)-and listened to the assigned sound for 15 min in an office or waiting room-like environment. Pre- and postdata were collected including muscle tension (electromyogram), pulse rate, and self-reported stress.
Results: With the exception of pulse rate, there were no statistical differences in baseline or demographics among groups. A paired t-test by group showed a decrease in muscle tension, pulse rate, and self-reported stress in the nature group and no significant differences in the control or the classical music groups. The significant reduction in muscle tension occurred at least by 7 min of listening to the nature sound.
Conclusion: This study highlights the potential benefit of even very brief (less than 7 min) exposure to nature sounds. Brief nature sound "booster breaks" are a promising area for future research with important practical implications.
Keywords: evidenced-based environmental design; nature contact; office; public health; stress reduction; waiting room; wellness by design.
© The Author(s) 2016.