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The effect of virtual reality forest and urban environments on physiological and psychological responses

Yu, Chia-Pin, Lee, Hsiao-Yun, Luo, Xiang-Yi
Urban forestry & urban greening 2018 v.35 pp. 106-114
computer simulation, emotions, forests, heart rate, physiological response, self-esteem, systolic blood pressure, urban areas, vigor
Previous studies used pictures or movies to investigate the impact of virtual nature environments on physiological and psychological health, providing inferior immersive experiences. The latest virtual reality (VR), launched in 2016, allows users to be fully immersed in simulated surroundings. However, the effects of the simulated environments created by the latest VR technology on health were not yet known. This study employed both cross-over and pretest-posttest design to examine the influence of forest and urban VR environments on restoration (N = 30). Both physiological and psychological responses were collected. The results show that participants’ systolic blood pressure and heart rate decreased with time, regardless of environmental differences. About psychological responses, an increased level of fatigue and a decreased level of self-esteem were reported in simulated urban environments. In contrast, an increased level of vigor and a decreased level of negative emotions (i.e., confusion, fatigue, anger-hostility, tension, and depression) were observed in simulated forest environments. In sum, greater benefits were found when immersing in forest settings. The latest VR technology can serve as an alternative way to access nature environments for restoration.