A systematic review into biodiversity and health

This study has systematically identified, summarized, and synthesized research that has examined whether environments with high biodiversity are health promoting.

It has found that there is some evidence to suggest that biodiverse natural environments promote better health, through mechanisms such as exposure to pleasant environments or the encouragement of health-promoting behaviours.

However, the study has found that overall the evidence is inconclusive and fails to identify a specific role for biodiversity in the promotion of better health.

Extensive literature searches identified 17 papers that were suitable for inclusion in the analyses, 15 of which were 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.

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, this study has shown that it is still not clear whether biodiversity is related to or can promote “good” human health and well-being.

The authors conclude that 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.

This review has been published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health

Full citation

A Systematic Review of the Health and Well-Being Benefits of Biodiverse Environments., Rebecca Lovell, Benedict W. Wheeler, Sahran L. Higgins, Katherine N. Irvine, Michael H. Depledge., Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Part B Vol. 17, Iss. 1, 2014