A Systematic Review of the Health and Well-Being Benefits of Biodiverse Environments
ABSTRACT Recent ecosystem service models have placed biodiversity as a central factor in the processes that link the natural environment to health. While it is recognized that disturbed ecosystems might negatively affect human well-being, it is not clear whether biodiversity is related to or can promote "good" human health and well-being. The aim of this study was to systematically identify, summarize, and synthesize research that had examined whether biodiverse environments are health promoting. The objectives were twofold: (1) to map the interdisciplinary field of enquiry and (2) to assess whether current evidence enables us to characterize the relationship. Due to the heterogeneity of available evidence a narrative synthesis approach was used, which is textual rather than statistical. Extensive searches identified 17 papers that met the inclusion criteria: 15 quantitative and 2 qualitative. The evidence was varied in disciplinary origin, with authors approaching the question using different study designs and methods, and conceptualizations of biodiversity, health, and well-being. There is some evidence to suggest that biodiverse natural environments promote better health through exposure to pleasant environments or the encouragement of health-promoting behaviors. There was also evidence of inverse relationships, particularly at a larger scale (global analyses). However, overall the evidence is inconclusive and fails to identify a specific role for biodiversity in the promotion of better health. High-quality interdisciplinary research is needed to produce a more reliable evidence base. Of particular importance is identifying the specific ecosystem services, goods, and processes through which biodiversity may generate good health and well-being.
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ABSTRACT: Against the backdrop of increasing interest in the relationship between Nature and health, this study examined the effect of perceived environment type and indicators of perceived environmental quality on short-term emotional well-being following outdoor group walks. Participants (n = 127) of a national group walk program completed pre- and post-walk questionnaires for each walk attended (n = 1009) within a 13-week study period. Multilevel linear modelling was used to examine the main and moderation effects. To isolate the environmental from the physical activity elements, analyses controlled for walk duration and perceived intensity. Analyses revealed that perceived restorativeness and perceived walk intensity predicted greater positive affect and happiness following an outdoor group walk. Perceived restorativeness and perceived bird biodiversity predicted post-walk negative affect. Perceived restorativeness moderated the relationship between perceived naturalness and positive affect. Results suggest that restorative quality of an environment may be an important element for enhancing well-being, and that perceived restorativeness and naturalness of an environment may interact to amplify positive affect. These findings highlight the importance of further research on the contribution of environment type and quality on well-being, and the need to control for effects of physical activity in green exercise research.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 01/2014; 12(1):106-30. DOI:10.3390/ijerph120100106 · 1.99 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: For many people, urban greenspaces are the only places where they encounter the natural world. This is concerning as there is growing evidence demonstrating that human well-being is enhanced by exposure to nature. There is, therefore, a compelling argument to increase how frequently people use urban greenspaces. This may be achieved in two complementary ways by encouraging: (I) non-users to start visiting urban greenspaces; (II) existing users to visit more often. Here we examine the factors that influence frequency of greenspace visitation in the city of Sheffield, England. We demonstrate that people who visit a site least frequently state lower self-reported psychological well-being. We hypothesised that a combination of socio-demographic characteristics of the participants, and the biophysical attributes of the greenspaces that they were visiting, would be important in influencing visit frequency. However, socio-demographic characteristics (income, age, gender) were not found to be predictors. In contrast, some biophysical attributes of greenspaces were significantly related to use frequency. Frequent use was more likely when the time taken to reach a greenspace was shorter and for sites with a higher index of greenspace neglect, but were unrelated to tree cover or bird species richness. We related these results to the motivations that people provide for their visits. Infrequent users were more likely to state motivations associated with the quality of the space, while frequent users gave motivations pertaining to physical, repeated activities. This suggests that there may be no simple way to manage greenspaces to maximise their use across user cohorts as the motivations for visits are very different.International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 08/2014; 11(8):7977-7992. DOI:10.3390/ijerph110807977 · 1.99 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: This report details the results of an empirical study that examined perceived health and well-being motives and benefits among visitors to a sample of Alberta’s parks and protected areas. The study revealed several major findings with important policy and management implications. First, the human health and well-being benefits that the visitors expected to receive from visits were perceived to be a major personal motivation in the choice to visit Alberta protected areas. The most important motivation factors identified by respondents were psychological and emotional well-being (89.1% of visitors ranked this important), social well-being (88.3%), physical well-being (80.3%), and environmental well-being (79.4%). Second, the perceived benefits that visitors received from their protected areas experiences were substantial. The most frequently reported improvements were related to psychological and emotional (90.5%), social (85%), and physical well-being (77.6%). Interestingly, women perceived greater benefits than men associated with their visit, especially with respect to spiritual, social, and psychological and emotional well-being. Research findings substantiate the need for park agencies to better understand the motivations of visitors representing different social and population subgroups (e.g., youth, elderly, couples, etc.) in order to inform and develop policies and visitor experience programs in support of health and well-being related pursuits. Important policy and management implications for both park managers and health care professionals are also discussed. NOTE: low resolution version (high res version available at: http://www.ccea.org/?p=807)