How important is nature for the health of young cancer survivors?

Thu 21 Jan 07:00

An international research group led by researchers at Mid Sweden University wants to clarify how recovery and being in nature can affect the health and well-being of young cancer survivors.

Vandring See You At The Summit
An eight-day hike is one of the activities in the pilot study. Photo from the organisation See You At The Summit, which also participates in the project. Photo: Joshua Bright.

The research group therefore started a pilot study with the goal of conducting a larger research project in the next step.

“Natural-based programs are seen as promising ways to support health and well-being in general. However, there is very little research into how it is perceived in young cancer survivors. With more knowledge about this, the methods can be used in better ways," says Mats Jong, Associate Professor at the Department of Health Sciences at Mid Sweden University.


Mats Jong and Miek Jong

Over the past two years, the international research group, led by Mats Jong and Miek Jong, has conducted an extensive systematic literature study of the research in the field. The results have been published in the scientific journal PLOS ONE and have also led to the pilot study that is now underway.

In the few studies conducted so far with young cancer survivors, it is seen that those who have the opportunity to participate in natural-based programmes show different positive effects in the short term, including a sense of being more socially included, stronger self-esteem and higher physical activity levels.

“However, since previous studies have not been randomised and also lacked comparison groups, one can't say whether the effects seen are due to the participants getting a chance to get away from their home environment or whether it’s just being in nature that gives them that sense of well-being. We want to continue this work and investigate it further," says Mats Jong.

Therefore, the research group will conduct a randomised, controlled study that has been developed in collaboration with, among other things, the Young Cancer Association (Ung cancer) and professional groups. The pilot study compares health effects for young cancer survivors who are allowed to take part in an eight-day hike in the High Coast area with health effects for an equally large group who get to spend a holiday week at a hotel.

“We ensure that everyone can participate based on their own conditions, regardless of the problems they may have after their cancer. Someone may not be allowed to carry heavy things, someone else may find it difficult to move around in certain terrain, but in those cases they get help to carry their things and we adapt the route, says Mats Jong.

The participants of the study are young people aged 16 to 30 who are or have been affected by cancer, at some point in their life. A total of 40 people participate, half of them in each programme.

The study is an international collaborative project with participating researchers from Mid Sweden University, the University of Tromsø and Sørlandet Hospital, Kristiansand in Norway, and from the University of California, San Francisco and the organisation See You At The Summit in the USA.

Other stakeholder groups with advisory functions in the project are: The Young Cancer Association (Ung cancer), Maxa livet (Child Cancer Foundation), Swedish Survival Society, Länsstyrelsen Västernorrland and Region Västernorrland.

The implementation of the study is possible with support from the Ekhaga Foundation and the Sjöberg Foundation.

Here, you will find the researchers’ literature study.

Contact person:
Mats Jong, Senior Lecturer in Public Health Sciences, Associate Professor Nursing, +4610-142 89 66, +4672-581 89 66, mats.jong@miun.se

Contact

Mats Jong

Universitetslektor|Senior Lecturer

+46 (0)10-1428966