Started teaching in the subject "environmental psychology within landscape architecture" in 1992. I have since worked with the development of courses in environmental psychology, landscape architecture, horticultural therapy and health design. In the early 2000s, a one-year master’s degree was developed in the field of "The importance of nature for human health and well-being". 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 course is now run by researchers and teachers at several faculties within SLU.
Since the mid-1980s, research has focused on ‘The importance of nature experiences and companion animals for human health and well-being’ (Grahn, 1991a). From start, the research was focused on preschools, schools, nursing homes and hospitals, where it turned out that green outdoor areas at these institutions were important: for children's development and health, for pedagogy at schools, for recreative activities at nursing homes and healthcare.
The research results since the mid-1980s have inspired theory development. In the 1980s, the development of the ‘Scope of Meaning Theory’ began, which is about perceived qualities in the physical environment that can change meaning and importance depending on the person's mood and needs (Grahn, 1991a). This theory was later developed into the ‘Supportive Environment Theory’, which deals with the fact that human beings need both supportive social, physical and cultural environments that support human needs and contribute to their health and well-being (Grahn et al 2010; Stigsdotter et al 2011; van den Bosch et al 2018). The three types of supportive environments form a mutual context that the landscape architect needs to be aware of. This is especially important when designing health gardens. Scope of Meaning is a function that supports the human Internal Working Model, i.e. how humans routinely relate to the demands of the environment and their own needs. In the case of more severe physical and mental illnesses and other life crises, the Internal Working Model does not work well. Then it is especially important to design the environment so that it can offer the best possible support to patients, in order to start healing and rehabilitation. The ‘Calm and Connection Theory’ (Grahn et al 2021) describes this process, and what the landscape architect should especially observe.
Research has shown that the perceived qualities in outdoor green areas can be divided into eight dimensions; Perceived Sensory Dimensions (PSDs). The first studies were conducted in the 1980s (Grahn, 1991b), and since then many studies have been conducted, both in Sweden and internationally. 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). They can be defined as indicators of cultural ecosystem services. In addition to the eight PSDs that support a cognitive spatial and qualitative appreciation and understanding of the environment, there are a number of qualities of more emotional significance; Nature Archetypes (Ottosson & Grahn, 2021). These can be used to add an extra dimension to the design of environments.
Research on the health promotive urban green structure: In the early 1990s, a first epidemiologically oriented population study was conducted which showed that access to green areas is an important factor for public health (Grahn, 1993; 1994). These studies have since been expanded and deepened, focusing on the special qualities needed in green areas. The studies have also examined how access to the eight PSDs affects public health (Grahn & Stigsdotter, 2003; Björk et al. 2008; de Jong et al. 2012; Weimann et al. 2017).
Research regarding health promotive design of special places: From the mid-1990s, studies were conducted that focused on the importance of green areas in preschools (Grahn, 1996; Grahn et al 1997; Mårtensson et al 2009), nursing homes (Ottosson & Grahn, 2005; 2006; Bengtsson et al 2015) and workplaces (Stigsdotter & Grahn, 2004; Lottrup et al 2013).
From 2000, 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 (Stigsdotter & Grahn, 2002; 2003). 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; 2016; 2017; Grahn et al 2017).
Forests for recreation and stress-reducing activities. Research projects have focusing on how forests can be designed to function for recreation (Stigsdotter et al 2017a; 2017b), and in addition 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). An ongoing research project is about nature-based intervention in forests in Denmark (Høegmark et al 2020).
Animal Assisted Therapy: In 2012, a project with care farming was started in Skåne. Ten so-called NUR farms, half with horses, were procured by Region Skåne (Palsdottir et al 2014). 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; Palsdottir et al 2020) as well as Zoo-assisted intervention (Sahlin et al 2019).
Evidence-based health design and planning: In recent years, the research has focused on guidelines and strategies regarding designing and planning health-promoting green areas. It is partly about further developing the knowledge about health-promoting qualities in green areas (Stoltz et al 2016; Stigsdotter et al 2017a 2017b; Palsdottir et al 2018), and partly about developing strategies and guidelines on how to plan and design health-promoting green areas (Bengtsson & Grahn, 2014; Stigsdotter et al 2020).
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. 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: semantic environmental descriptions. 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
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. 1991a. Om parkers betydelse: parkers möjligheter att underlätta och berika föreningsverksamhet och arbete på daghem, skolor, servicehus och sjukhus. SLU Alnarp.
Grahn, P. 1991b. Landscapes in our minds: people's choice of recreative places in towns. Landscape Research 16 (1): 11-19.
Grahn, P. 1993. Planera för bättre hälsa! Om sambandet mellan grönområden och hälsa, pp. 109-122 in Kullinger, B. (ed). Planera för en bärkraftig utveckling. Byggforskningsrådet T26:1993. Stockholm.
Grahn, P. 1994. Green structures - The importance for health of nature areas and parks. European Regional Planning 56: 89-112
Grahn, P. 1996. Wild nature makes children healthy. Swedish Building Research 4: 16-18
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., Tenngart Ivarsson, C., Stigsdotter, U.K., and Bengtsson, I-L. 2010. ”Using affordances as a health promoting tool in a therapeutic garden”, in Innovative Approaches to Researching Landscape and Health, eds. C. Ward Thompson, P. Aspinal, and S. Bell (London, UK: Routledge), 116–154.
Høegmark, S.; Elmose Andersen, T.; Grahn, P.; Kaya Roessler, K. 2020. The wildman programme. A nature-based rehabilitation programme enhancing quality of life for men on long-term sick leave. International journal of environmental research and public health 17 (10), 3368
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
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
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., Stigmar, K.; Åström, M.; Manuswin, C.; Grahn, P.; Petersson, I.; Norrving, B.; Pessah-Rasmussen, H. 2017. Rehabilitering av Patienter med Stroke i Alnarps Rehabiliteringsträdgård. Region Skåne rapport.
Pálsdóttir, A.M., Kyrö Wissler, S., Geite, A. & Grahn P. 2016. Naturlig Etablering – En pilotstudie av en naturbaserad intervention för individer inom Etableringsuppdraget i behov av arbetslivsinriktad rehabilitering. Serie: Landskapsarkitektur trädgård växtproduktionsvetenskap. Nr 8.
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. DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2015.1093.2
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
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
Stigsdotter, U.; Grahn, P. 2002. What makes a garden a healing garden? Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 13 (2), 60-69
Stigsdotter, U.; Grahn, P. 2003. Experiencing a garden: A healing garden for people suffering from burnout diseases. Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture 14 (5), 38-48
Stigsdotter, U.A.; Grahn, P. 2004. A garden at your workplace may reduce stress. Design & Health, 147-157
Stigsdotter, U.K.; Corazon, S.S.; Sidenius, U.; Refshauge, A.D.; Grahn, P. 2017. Forest design for mental health promotion—Using perceived sensory dimensions to elicit restorative responses. Landscape and Urban Planning 160, 1-15
Stigsdotter, U.K., Palsdottir, A.M., Burls, A., Chermaz, A., Ferrini, F., and Grahn, P. 2011. “Nature-based therapeutic interventions”, in Forest, Trees and Human Health, eds. K. Nilsson, M. Sangster, C. Gallis, T. Hartig, S. de Vries, K. Seeland, et al. (Dordrecht, NL: Springer), 309–342.
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
Stigsdotter, U.K.; Sidenius, U.; Grahn, P. 2020. From research to practice: operationalisation of the eight perceived sensory dimensions into a health-promoting design tool. Alam Cipta 13, 57-70
van den Bosch, M., Ward Thompson, C., and Grahn, P. 2018. “Preventing stress and promoting mental health”, in Nature and Public Health, eds. M. van den Bosch, and W. Bird (Oxford UK: Oxford University Press), 108-115.
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: