Viewing an alpine environment positively affects emotional analytics in patients with somatoform, depressive and anxiety disorders as well as in healthy controls

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Abstract

Background: Patients with somatoform, depressive or anxiety disorders often don't respond well to medical treatment and experience many side effects. It is thus of clinical relevance to identify alternative, scientifically based, treatments. Our approach is based on the recent evidence that urbanicity has been shown to be associated with an increased risk for mental disorders. Conversely, green and blue environments show a dose-dependent beneficial impact on mental health. Methods: Here we evaluate the effect of viewing stimuli of individuals in an alpine environment on emotional analytics in 183 patients with psychiatric disorders (mostly somatoform, depressive and anxiety disorders) and 315 healthy controls (HC). Emotional analytics (valence: unhappy vs happy, arousal: calm vs excited, dominance: controlled vs in control) were assessed using the Self-Assessment Manikin. Further parameters related to mental health and physical activity were recorded. Results: Emotional analytics of patients indicated that they felt less happy, less in control and had higher levels of arousal than HC when viewing neutral stimuli. The comparison alpine>neutral stimuli showed a significant positive effect of alpine stimuli on emotional analytics in both groups. Patients and HC both felt attracted to the scenes displayed in the alpine stimuli. Emotional analytics correlated positively with resilience and inversely with perceived stress. Conclusions: Preventive and therapeutic programs for patients with somatoform, depressive and anxiety disorders should consider taking the benefits of natural outdoor environments, such as alpine environments, into account. Organizational barriers which are preventing the implementation of such programs in clinical practice need to be identified and addressed.

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Hüfner, K., Ower, C., Kemmler, G., Vill, T., Martini, C., Schmitt, A., & Sperner-Unterweger, B. (2020). Viewing an alpine environment positively affects emotional analytics in patients with somatoform, depressive and anxiety disorders as well as in healthy controls. BMC Psychiatry, 20(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12888-020-02787-7

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