Health and wellbeing impacts of environmental enhancement activities

This theory led systematic review aims to understand:

  • What are the health and wellbeing impacts of taking part in environmental enhancement/conservation activities for different groups of people?
  • How do these projects achieve these benefits?
  • Are there particular impacts on different groups of people?
  • What are the contextual factors that contribute to differing impacts?

There is growing research and policy interest in the potential for the natural environment and green spaces to enhance human health and well-being. It is known that contact with nature can improve health and well-being and it has been suggested that this resource is underused as a health promotion tool to address the increasing burden of common health problems such as depression and heart disease. Where such activities are combined with environmental stewardship through activities which, for example, improve wildlife areas or clean up litter, there is the potential to harness additional benefits of greater connectedness with the local environment, enhanced social connectivity and enhanced self-esteem through improving the locality which may, in turn, further improve well-being. These activities have been suggested as beneficial for a range of groups: including children, those with mental health conditions and older adults; and have consisted of a variety of activities such as urban greening, beach litter collections, improving wildlife habitats and so on.

This project will undertake theory-led systematic review of health impacts of such activities across a range of contexts in order to understand both whether these can have positive benefits, but also to understand how and why they have these effects, and in which circumstances they can be optimised. It will use a systematic approach to identifying, appraising and synthesising relevant existing quantitative and qualitative research evidence from a range of projects.

The input of an expert advisory group, to be convened for this project, will be key. We hope that members of a range of organisations who design, deliver and evaluate environmental enhancement activities will participate.

We will produce a conceptual framework and synthesis of the evidence about the health impacts of involvement with conservation or environmental enhancement activities, how these are best achieved, in what circumstance and for whom.

This review’s protocol is published by The Cochrane Library.