Systematic review of blue space and human health

Available on 18 August 2017

Outdoor blue spaces, human health and well-being: a systematic review of quantitative studies


A growing number of quantitative studies have investigated the potential benefits of outdoor blue spaces (lakes, rivers, sea, etc) and human health, but there is not yet a systematic review synthesizing this evidence.


To systematically review the current quantitative evidence on human health and well-being benefits of outdoor blue spaces.


Following PRISMA guidelines for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analysis, observational and experimental quantitative studies focusing on both residential and non-residential outdoor blue space exposure were searched using specific keywords.


In total 35 studies were included in the current systematic review, most of them being classified as of “good quality” (N=22). The balance of evidence suggested a positive association between greater exposure to outdoor blue spaces and both benefits to mental health and well-being (N=12 studies) and levels of physical activity (N=13 studies). The evidence of an association between outdoor blue space exposure and general health (N= 6 studies), obesity (N=8 studies) and cardiovascular (N=4 studies) and related outcomes was less consistent.


Although encouraging, there remains relatively few studies and a large degree of heterogeneity in terms of study design, exposure metrics and outcome measures, making synthesis difficult. Further research is needed using longitudinal research and natural experiments, preferably across a broader range of countries, to better understand the causal associations between blue spaces, health and well-being.

Full citation

Gascon, M., Zijlema, W., Vert, C., White, M.P., Nieuwenhuijsen, M.J., 2017. Outdoor blue spaces, human health and well-being: A systematic review of quantitative studies. Int J Hyg Envir Heal 4. doi:10.1016/j.ijheh.2017.08.004