Virtual Nature and Mental Health (01-16-19)

Browning and colleagues have determined that virtual nature experiences can have the same effects on mental health as “real” ones.  The team reports that “Nature exposure in virtual reality (VR) can provide emotional well-being benefits for people who cannot access the outdoors. . . . [the researchers compared] the effects of 6 min of outdoor nature exposure with 6 min of exposure to a 360-degree VR nature video, which is recorded at the outdoor nature exposure location. Skin conductivity, restorativeness, and mood before and after exposure are measured. We find that both types of nature exposure increase physiological arousal, benefit positive mood levels, and are restorative compared to an indoor setting without nature; however, for outdoor exposure, positive mood levels increase and for virtual nature, they stay the same. . . . Settings where people have limited access to nature might consider using VR nature experiences to promote mental health.”

Matthew Browning, Katherine Mimnaugh, Carena van Riper, Heidemarie Laurent, and Steven LaValle.  2020.  “Can Simulated Nature Support Mental Health?  Comparing Short, Single-Does of 360-Degree Nature Videos in Virtual Reality with the Outdoors.”  Frontiers in Psychology, https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02667