Stress & Resilience

Nature exposure, mental health, and equity: a multi-method approach
Greg Bratman University of Washington Seattle, WA
Early life adversity has been associated with a variety of negative mental health outcomes. The “second hit” hypothesis posits that the experience of more than one adverse event may be necessary for the onset of certain mental health disorders. For example, childhood adversity may make an individual more vulnerable to anxiety disorders, but it may be the case that this disease only manifests with the occurrence of exposure to another major life stressor in adulthood. Therefore, finding ways to mitigate the severity of acute, present-day stressors may be one means by which to reduce the association of early life adversity with poor mental health, through a decrease in the magnitude and frequency of the “second hit”. Studies have shown that interventions at the individual or neighborhood level may help to prevent the onset of these negative outcomes, possibly acting as a buffer against the occurrence or magnitude of the “second hit”. Stress reduction theory suggests that nature exposure could potentially operate as such a buffer. Our proposed study provides a crucial first step into the investigation of whether the increased sensitivity to stressors that can be resultant from childhood adversity is decreased when experienced in a natural environment.

From the city to the cell: neighborhood determinants of adverse birth outcomes
Lara Cushing, San Francisco State University San Francisco, CA
Racial disparities in adverse birth outcomes such as preterm and low weight births are not fully explained by known maternal risk factors such as smoking or socioeconomic status, leading to calls for more research on the role of neighborhood-level factors, including environmental pollutants and psychosocial stressors which often co-occur in disadvantaged neighborhoods. A lack of cohort studies with robust measures of both environmental and social stressors has hindered efforts to understand their joint effects on perinatal health. This 2-year project will leverage data from an existing cohort of pregnant women from California to create a unique dataset of prenatal measures of 1) neighborhood-level built and social environment characteristics (greenspace, noise, and crime), 2) exposure to traffic, 3) individual-level perceptual and biomarker psychosocial stress measures, and 4) birth outcome data to evaluate the cumulative effects of traffic-related exposures and psychosocial stressors on the length of gestation and fetal growth. Outcomes will include at least three peer-reviewed publications contributing new knowledge regarding neighborhood determinants of adverse birth outcomes.

Understanding the roles of objective versus perception of green space exposure on stress and mental health
Colleen Reid University of Colorado, Boulder Boulder, CO
Exposure to natural environments, often called “green space” or greenness, has been associated with numerous beneficial health outcomes, particularly in urban areas. Researchers have proposed several pathways by which green space may affect health, but most green space-health mediation studies find that at least some of the effect is through psychosocial pathways. Due to the consistent role of psychosocial pathways linking green space to better health outcomes, it is possible that the exposure to green space that truly matters is how an individual perceives their green space exposure rather than their objective exposure. While some researchers have investigated perception of green space, most have not focused on perceptions of green space exposure nor on whether perceived or objective green space exposure better predicts health. I propose a project to better understand the influence on health of objective versus perceived measures of green space exposure.