Here’s what you need to know.

  • Taking regular walks in the woods or in city parks may enhance workers’ ability to cope with stress.
  • The relationship was significant even after controlling for a range of factors.
  • The study involved more than 6,000 Japanese workers.

Work-related stress affects employees all over the globe. In 2019, the World Health Organization (WHO) added burnout — defined as a syndrome resulting from chronic workplace stress — to its official compendium of diseases as an occupational phenomenon.

Workers in Japan, where workplace culture frequently dictates that employees work brutally long hours, are certainly not immune to occupational stress.

In 2018, workers in Japan took only 52.4% of the paid leave they were due, according to government figures that the BBC reported. The Japanese even have a word — “karoshi” — to describe death by overwork.

In the new study, which appears in Public Health in Practice, scientists from the University of Tsukuba in Japan examined survey data from 6,466 Japanese workers who were between the ages of 20 and 59 years in November, 2017.

Understanding sense-of-coherence scores

As part of the original survey, each of the workers received a sense-of-coherence (SOC) score.

In 1979, sociologist Aaron Antonovsky first introduced SOC as a concept. It refers to an individual’s ability to look at the world and see themselves able to make their life meaningful, manageable, and comprehensible.

He went on to develop a questionnaire that analyzes how respondents understand the things that happen to them, as well as their ability both to manage the situation and to take meaning from it.

A previous study found that individuals with a strong SOC score showed more resilience during stressful life events. This finding supported earlier research suggesting that in the workplace, a strong SOC score could indicate that a worker possesses a solid ability to cope with stress.

“SOC indicates mental capacities for realizing and dealing with stress,” explains Prof. Shinichiro Sasahara of the University of Tsukuba, one of the study authors.

The study authors note that researchers have previously demonstrated that individuals who are married or have attended college or graduate school are more likely to have a strong SOC score.

They also write that nonsmokers are more likely to have a strong SOC than smokers and that people who exercise frequently tend to have a stronger SOC score than those who do not.

For this study, the researchers divided the survey respondents into groups based on how often they reported walking in forests or green spaces. They then looked for correlations between the time spent walking in nature and a range of factors, including SOC score, sex, age, marital status, educational background, household income, smoking habits, and physical exercise.

Medical reference: Medical News Today