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Sound refuges? Can national parks protect human health through natural sounds?

Authors: Amber Pearson*, Michigan State University, Rachel Buxton, Carleton University, Claudia Allou, Michigan State University, George Wittmyer, Colorado State University, Kurt Fristrup, National Parks Service
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Environmental Perception, Geography and Urban Health
Keywords: nature, soundscape, birdsong, water sounds, stress, health, salutogenic
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


An immense body of research indicates that exposure to or contact with nature, broadly defined, can have benefits for human health and well-being. However, we lack an understanding of the mechanisms by which these benefits are delivered. For example, nature contact may be experienced through sights, sounds, touch, taste and smell. While research on the deleterious effects of noise on health abound, little is known about the potential health and well-being benefits of natural sound. To inform future research, policy and planning efforts and to address an oft-ignored dimension of the nature-health research agenda, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to quantify the effects of natural sounds on human health and well-being. We then examined the natural sounds recorded in US National Parks to identify potential ‘sound refuges’ which may offer health benefits for visitors.

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