Started teaching in the subject "environmental psychology in landscape architecture" in 1992. In the early 2000s, a one-year master’s degree was developed. After a few years, this master's degree was extended to two years, to be in English and cover the entire area 'The importance of nature experiences and companion animals for human health and well-being'. The master program is now run by researchers and teachers at several faculties within SLU.
My research began in the mid-1980s. Together with colleagues, mainly at SLU and Lund University, three theories have been developed at the interface of landscape architecture, environmental psychology, and health sciences/medicine.
1. The overarching theory is The Scope of Meaning Theory: The theory deals with how perceived relationships to properties in the physical environment can change meaning and significance depending on the person's physical and psychological condition. Scope of Meaning is defined as a function that supports the human internal working model, i.e. how people routinely relate to the demands of the environment and their own needs (Grahn, et al 2022).
2. The Calm and Connection Theory (Grahn et al 2021) explains how perceived relationships to features in the physical and social environment can instill security, belonging and also promote healing.
3. The Supportive Environment Theory deals with people's need for supportive social, physical and cultural environments. The three types of supportive environments form a mutual context. The theory is above all useful in nature-based therapy, but can also be used in, for example, landscape architecture and nursing science. The supportive environments, which are perceived through situated embodied cognition, contribute to people's health and well-being (Grahn et al 2010; Grahn et al 2022).
Research has shown that the perceived qualities in outdoor green areas can be divided into eight dimensions; Perceived Sensory Dimensions (PSDs). The eight PSDs contain different facets of how green areas can function as health-promoting (Grahn & Stigsdotter, 2010). A weighting of all studies, conducted in Sweden and internationally, shows how the eight PSDs are related to each other and how they are associated with, for example, the size of green areas (Stoltz & Grahn, 2021). The PSDs define a holistic spatial and structural scope of action, and can function as indicators of cultural ecosystem services.
In addition to the eight PSDs, there are Nature Archetypes (Ottosson & Grahn, 2021). Unlike the PSDs, these are symbolic, existential and momentary in nature, and also include season, time of day, animals, etc. The nature archetypes contain movement perception as an essential part, which is linked to vitality (Bystöm et al 2022). They are suggested to be used in nature-based therapy and can also be used to give an extra dimension to the design of environments.
Evidence-based health design and planning: In recent years, research has focused on guidelines and strategies for the design and planning of health-promoting green spaces. It is about further developing knowledge about health-promoting qualities in green areas, such as how to increase perceived safety (Sezavar et al 2023), possibility of stress reduction (Memari et al 2021; Stoltz et al 2016; Stigsdotter et al 2017a 2017b;) rehabilitation capacity (Palsdottir et al 2018), or generally about what increases people's preference for a park (Shayestefar et al 2022). The knowledge is used to develop strategies and guidelines for how to plan and design health-promoting green areas (Bengtsson & Grahn, 2014; Grahn & Stoltz, 2022; Grahn et al 2022).
Research on the health-promoting urban green structure: Epidemiologically oriented population studies show that access to green areas is an important factor for public health (Grahn & Stigsdotter 2003). The studies have been deepened with a focus on how access to the eight PSDs affects public health (Björk et al. 2008; de Jong et al. 2012; Weimann et al. 2017).
Research on the health-promoting design of places: Research projects have investigated the health-promoting importance of green areas in preschools (Grahn et al 1997; Mårtensson et al 2009), nursing homes (Ottosson & Grahn, 2005; 2006; Bengtsson et al 2015) and workplaces (Lottrup et al 2013).
From 2002, some of the research has been conducted at a special Living Lab; Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden, where the first participants were offered rehabilitation in the summer of 2002 (Grahn, et al 2022). The research has partly focused on examining the effect of nature-based interventions, partly on increasing knowledge of how interventions should be designed. The latter deals with both the content and design of environments and the content of therapy (Währborg et al 2014; Palsdottir et al 2014; Grahn et al 2017). A similar nature based therapy has been investigated in Gothenburg (Sahlin et al 2015) and Germany (Joschko et al 2023).
Forests for recreation and stress-reducing activities. Research projects focusing on how forests can be designed to function for recreation (Stigsdotter et al 2017a; 2017b); how forests can produce forest raw materials, such as timber, and at the same time can function for recreation (Nordström et al 2015; Stoltz et al 2016); and nature-based interventions in forests (Nordh et al 2009; Høegmark et al 2021).
Animal Assisted Therapy: In 2012, a project with care farming started in Skåne. Ten so-called NUR farms, half of them with horses, were procured by Region Skåne (Palsdottir et al 2015). The intention is to make longitudinal studies on how rehabilitation of stress-related ill health works with this type of care farming. In addition to this project, a number of other animal-assisted projects have been implemented. Horse-assisted therapy (Byström et al 2019; 2022; Palsdottir et al 2020) as well as Zoo-assisted intervention (Sahlin et al 2019).
Works with projects within the program for built environment. It is about developing indicators regarding the green structure of the built environment, in cities and their surroundings (Grahn & Stoltz, 2021; 2022). The indicators are intended to be used for survey and analysis with the intention that the built environment can achieve Sweden's environmental quality goal "Good Built Environment" and Sweden's international commitments on urban and peri-urban environments.
Publikationer i urval
Bengtsson, A.; Grahn, P. (2014). Outdoor environments in healthcare settings: A quality evaluation tool for use in designing healthcare gardens. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 13 (4): 878-891
Bengtsson, A.; Hägerhäll, C.; Englund, J.E.; Grahn, P. (2015). Outdoor environments at three nursing homes. Journal of Housing for the Elderly 29 (1-2), 53-76
Björk, J.; Albin, M.; Grahn, P.; Jacobsson, H.; Ardö, J.; Wadbro, J.; Östergren, P-O.; Skärbäck, E. (2008). Recreational values of the natural environment in relation to neighbourhood satisfaction, physical activity, obesity and wellbeing. Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health 62 (4): e2-e2
Byström, K.; Grahn, P.; Hägerhäll, C. (2019). Vitality from Experiences in Nature and Contact with Animals—A Way to Develop Joint Attention and Social Engagement in Children with Autism? International journal of environmental research and public health 16 (23), 4673
Byström, K., Wrangsjö, B., Grahn, P. (2022). COMSI®—A Form of Treatment That Offers an Opportunity to Play, Communicate and Become Socially Engaged through the Lens of Nature—A Single Case Study. International journal of environmental research and public health 19 (24), 16399
De Jong, K.; Albin, M.; Skärbäck, E.; Grahn, P.; Björk. J. (2012). Perceived green qualities were associated with neighborhood satisfaction, physical activity, and general health: Results from a cross-sectional study in suburban and rural Scania, southern Sweden. Health & Place 18 (6): 1374-138
Grahn, P., Stoltz, J., Bengtsson, A. (2022). The Alnarp Method: An Interdisciplinary-Based Design of Holistic Healing Gardens Derived From Research and Development in Alnarp Rehabilitation Garden, pp 299-317 in: Routledge Handbook of Urban Landscape Research. K Bishop, L Corkery (Eds). Routledge: London, New York.
Grahn, P.; Mårtensson, F.; Lindblad, B.; Nilsson, P.; Ekman, A. (1997). Ute på dagis: hur använder barn daghemsgården? Utformningen av daghemsgården och dess betydelse för lek, motorik och koncentrationsförmåga. SLU Alnarp.
Grahn, P.; Ottosson, J.; Uvnäs Moberg, K. (2021). The oxytocinergic system as a mediator of anti-stress and instorative effects induced by nature. The Calm and Connection theory. Frontiers in Psychology 12, 2425
Grahn, P.; Pálsdóttir, A.M.; Ottosson, J.; Jonsdottir, I.H. (2017). Longer nature-based rehabilitation may contribute to a faster return to work in patients with reactions to severe stress and/or depression. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 14 (11), 1310
Grahn, P.; Stigsdotter, U.A. (2003). Landscape planning and stress. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 2 (1): 1-18
Grahn, P.; Stigsdotter, U.K. (2010). The relation between perceived sensory dimensions of urban green space and stress restoration. Landscape and Urban Planning 94 (3-4): 264-27.
Grahn P, Stoltz J. 2021. Urbana grönområden - indikatorer för hälsa och välbefinnande. Movium Fakta, SLU Alnarp
Grahn, P., Stoltz, J. (2022). Indikatorer för hälsopromoverande urbana grönområden: Kunskapssammanställning. Naturvårdsverket, Stockholm.
Grahn, P., Tenngart Ivarsson, C., Stigsdotter, U.K., and Bengtsson, I-L. (2010). Using affordances as a health promoting tool in a therapeutic garden, pp 116-154 in: Innovative Approaches to Researching Landscape and Health. C. Ward Thompson, P. Aspinal, S. Bell (Eds). Routledge: London.
Høegmark, S.; Andersen, T.E.; Grahn, P.; Mejldal, A., Roessler, K.K. (2020). The wildman programme—rehabilitation and reconnection with nature for men with mental or physical health problems—a matched-control study. International journal of environmental research and public health 18 (21), 11465
Joschko, L., Palsdottir, A.M., Grahn, P., Hinse, M. (2023). Nature-Based Therapy in Individuals with Mental Health Disorders, with a Focus on Mental Well-Being and Connectedness to Nature. International journal of environmental research and public health 20 (3), 2167
Lottrup, L.; Grahn, P.; Stigsdotter, U.K. (2013). Workplace greenery and perceived level of stress: Benefits of access to a green outdoor environment at the workplace. Landscape and Urban Planning 110: 5-11
Memari, S., Pazhouhanfar, M., Grahn, P., (2021). Perceived sensory dimensions of green areas: An experimental study on stress recovery. Sustainability 13 (10), 5419
Mårtensson, F.; Boldemann, C.; Söderström, M.; Blennow, M.; Englund, J.E.; Grahn, P. (2009). Outdoor environmental assessment of attention promoting settings for preschool children. Health & Place 15 (4): 1149-1157
Nordh, H., Grahn, P., Währborg, P. (2009). Meaningful activities in the forest, a way back from exhaustion and long-term sick leave. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 8 (3), 207-219
Nordström, E.M.; Dolling, A.; Skärbäck, E.; Stoltz, J.; Grahn, P.; Lundell, Y. (2015). Forests for wood production and stress recovery: trade-offs in long-term forest management planning. European Journal of Forest Research 134 (5), 755-767
Ottosson, J.; Grahn, P. (2005). A comparison of leisure time spent in a garden with leisure time spent indoors: On measures of restoration in residents in geriatric care. Landscape Research 30 (1): 23-55
Ottosson, J.; Grahn, P. (2006). Measures of restoration in geriatric care residences: the influence of nature on elderly people's power of concentration, blood pressure and pulse rate. Journal of Housing for the Elderly 19 (3-4): 227-256
Ottosson, J.; Grahn, P. (2021). Nature Archetypes – Concepts Related to Objects and Phenomena in Natural Environments. A Swedish Case. Frontiers in Psychology. 11: 612672
Pálsdóttir, A.M.; Gudmundsson, M.; Grahn, P. (2020). Equine-assisted intervention to improve perceived value of everyday occupations and quality of life in people with lifelong neurological disorders: A prospective controlled study. International journal of environmental research and public health 17 (7), 2431
Pálsdóttir, A.M.; Persson, D.; Persson, B.; Grahn, P. (2014). The journey of recovery and empowerment embraced by nature—Clients’ perspectives on nature-based rehabilitation in relation to the role of the natural environment. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 11 (7): 7094-7115
Pálsdóttir, A.M.; Stigsdotter, U.K.; Persson, D.; Thorpert, P.; Grahn, P. (2018). The qualities of natural environments that support the rehabilitation process of individuals with stress-related mental disorder in nature-based rehabilitation. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening 29:312–321
Pálsdóttir, A.M., Wissler, S.K., Nilsson, K., Petersson, I.F. and Grahn, P. (2015). Nature-based rehabilitation in peri-urban areas for people with stress-related illnesses – a controlled prospective study. Acta Horticulturae 1093, 31-35.
Sahlin, E., Ahlborg Jr, G., Tenenbaum, A., Grahn, P. (2015). Using nature-based rehabilitation to restart a stalled process of rehabilitation in individuals with stress-related mental illness. International journal of environmental research and public health 12 (2): 1928-1951
Sahlin, E.; Johansson, B.; Karlsson, P.O.; Loberg, J.; Niklasson, M.; Grahn, P. (2019). Improved Wellbeing for Both Caretakers and Users from A Zoo-Related Nature Based Intervention—A Study at Nordens Ark Zoo, Sweden. International journal of environmental research and public health 16 (24), 4929
Sezavar, N., Pazhouhanfar, M., Van Dongen, R.P., Grahn, P. (2023). The importance of designing the spatial distribution and density of vegetation in urban parks for increased experience of safety. Journal of Cleaner Production 403, 136768
Shayestefar, M., Pazhouhanfar, M., van Oel, C., Grahn, P. (2022). Exploring the Influence of the Visual Attributes of Kaplan’s Preference Matrix in the Assessment of Urban Parks: A Discrete Choice Analysis. Sustainability 14 (12), 7357
Stigsdotter, U.K.; Corazon, S.S.; Sidenius, U.; Kristiansen, J.; Grahn, P. (2017a). It is not all bad for the grey city–A crossover study on physiological and psychological restoration in a forest and an urban environment. Health & Place 46, 145-154
Stigsdotter, U.K.; Corazon, S.S.; Sidenius, U.; Refshauge, A.D.; Grahn, P. (2017b). Forest design for mental health promotion—Using perceived sensory dimensions to elicit restorative responses. Landscape and Urban Planning 160, 1-15
Stoltz, J.; Grahn, P. (2021). Perceived Sensory Dimensions: An Evidence-based Approach to Greenspace Aesthetics. Urban Forestry & Urban Greening, 126989
Stoltz, J.; Lundell, Y.; Skärbäck, E.; van den Bosch, M.A.; Grahn, P.; Nordström, E-M.; Dolling, A. (2016). Planning for restorative forests: describing stress-reducing qualities of forest stands. European Journal of Forest Research 135 (5), 803-813
Weimann, H.; Rylander, L.; van den Bosch, M.A.; Albin, M.; Skärbäck, E.; Grahn, P.; Björk, J. (2017). Perception of safety is a prerequisite for the association between neighbourhood green qualities and physical activity: Results from a cross-sectional study in Sweden. Health & Place 45: 124-130
Währborg, P.; Petersson, I.F.; Grahn, P. (2014). Nature-assisted rehabilitation for reactions to severe stress and/or depression in a rehabilitation garden: Long-term follow-up including comparisons with a matched population cohort. Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine 46 (3), 271-276
I am currently working on the following projects:
1. BioESSHealth - Financing: EU/Biodiversa. Link: https://www.biodiversa.org/1624/download
2. Sustainable living outdoor environments - Financing: Formas. Link: https://portal.research.lu.se/portal/en/projects/sustainable-outdoor-living-environments--systematic-interdisciplinary-studies-of-health-effects-and-impact-on-social-inequalities(2c7805ab-3e4f-469c-a3ca-1fd9e865dcb4).html#Overview
3. NORDGREEN - Smart Planning for Healthy and Green Nordic Cities. Financing: Nordforsk. Link:
4. De-stressing outdoor environmental qualities in work areas for increased well-being, cooperation and productivity. Financing: Vinnova. Link: restorativeworkplace.com
5. Estimating the Role of Exposure and Access to Natural Environments for Wellbeing, Mental & Cognitive Health. Financing, Formas. Emotional disorders, chronic stress and cognitive dysfunction are major public health concerns associated with vast individual and societal costs. Understanding and targeting modifiable risk factors for these conditions is thus vital. Prior studies have found exposure and access to natural environments beneficial to mood, cognitive performance, stress reduction, and mental health. However, more knowledge is needed regarding the extent to which exposure and access to different natural environments (incl. different “green spaces”/vegetation and “blue spaces”/open waters) around individuals’ homes and workplaces play a role in mental and cognitive health at the population level. The purpose of the project is thus to investigate the role of access and exposure to different green and blue spaces for different aspects of mental and cognitive health, cross-sectionally and longitudinally, in a population-based and nationally representative cohort. There project will also entail collaboration with agents in society on the development and implementation of healthy environments. The results will contribute with important empirical bases for public health and urban planning policies.
Links to my publications: