Skip to main content

Landscape and well-being: a scoping study on the health-promoting impact of outdoor environments

Abstract

Objectives

The present literature review conceptualises landscape as a health resource that promotes physical, mental, and social well-being. Different health-promoting landscape characteristics are discussed.

Methods

This article is based on a scoping study which represents a special kind of qualitative literature review. Over 120 studies have been reviewed in a five-step-procedure, resulting in a heuristic device.

Results

A set of meaningful pathways that link landscape and health have been identified. Landscapes have the potential to promote mental well-being through attention restoration, stress reduction, and the evocation of positive emotions; physical well-being through the promotion of physical activity in daily life as well as leisure time and through walkable environments; and social well-being through social integration, social engagement and participation, and through social support and security.

Conclusion

This scoping study allows us to systematically describe the potential of landscape as a resource for physical, mental and social well-being. A heuristic framework is presented that can be applied in future studies, facilitating systematic and focused research approaches and informing practical public health interventions.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

References

  • Adams M, Cox T, Moore G, Croxford B, Refaee M, Sharples S (2006) Sustainable soundscapes: noise policy and the urban experience. Urban Stud 43:2385–2398

    Google Scholar 

  • Addy CL, Wilson DK, Kirtland KA, Ainsworth BE, Sharpe P, Kimsey D (2004) Associations of perceived social and physical environmental supports with physical activity and walking behavior. Am J Public Health 94:440–443

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Arksey H, O’Malley L (2005) Scoping studies: towards a methodological framework. Int J Soc Res Meth 8:19–32

    Google Scholar 

  • Armstrong DA (2000) Survey of community gardens in upstate New York: implications for health promotion and community development. Health Place 6:319–327

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Atkinson R (2007) Ecology of sound: the sonic order of urban space. Urban Stud 44:1905–1917

    Google Scholar 

  • Augenstein I (2002) Die Ästhetik der Landschaft. Ein Bewertungsverfahren für die planerische Umweltvorsorge. Weissensee Verlag, Berlin

    Google Scholar 

  • Badger D, Nursten J, Williams P, Woodward M (2000) Should all literature reviews be systematic? Eval Res Educ 14:220–230

    Google Scholar 

  • Ball K, Bauman A, Leslie E, Owen N (2001) Perceived environmental aesthetics and convenience and company are associated with walking for exercise among Australian adults. Prev Med 33:434–440

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Bauer MW, Gaskell G (2000) Qualitative researching with text, image and sound: a practical handbook. SAGE, Thousand Oaks

    Google Scholar 

  • Baum F, Palmer C (2002) ‘Opportunity structures’: urban landscape, social capital and health promotion in Australia. Health Promot Int 17:351–361

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Baur B, Gilgen C (1999) Der Allschwiler Wald (The forest of Allschwil.). Verkehrs- und Kulturverein, Allschwil

    Google Scholar 

  • Berto R (2005) Exposure to restorative environments helps restore attentional capacity. J Environ Psychol 25:249–259

    Google Scholar 

  • Booth ML, Owen N, Bauman A, Clavisi O, Leslie E (2000) Social-cognitive and perceived environment influences associated with physical activity in older Australians. Prev Med 31:15–22

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Brown KH, Jameton AL (2000) Public health implications of urban agriculture. J Public Health Policy 21:20–39

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Buchecker M, Hunziker M, Kienast F (2003) Participatory landscape development: overcoming social barriers to public involvement. Landsc Urban Plan 64:29–46

    Google Scholar 

  • Cackowski JM, Nasar JL (2003) The restorative effects of roadside vegetation—implications for automobile driver anger and frustration. Environ Behav 35:736–751

    Google Scholar 

  • Carles JL, Lopez Barrio I, de Lucio JA (1999) Sound influence on landscape values. Landsc Urban Plan 43:191–200

    Google Scholar 

  • Cervero R, Duncan M (2003) Walking, bicycling, and urban landscapes: evidence from the San Francisco Bay Area. Am J Public Health 93:1478–1483

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Coen SE, Ross NA (2006) Exploring the material basis for health: characteristics of parks in Montreal neighborhoods with contrasting health outcomes. Health Place 12:361–371

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Coley RL, Kuo FE, Sullivan WC (1997) Where does community grow? The social context created by nature in urban public housing. Environ Behav 29:468–494

    Google Scholar 

  • Council of Europe (2000) European landscape convention. Vol European Treaty Series No. 176:1–9

  • Craig CL, Brownson RC, Cragg SE, Dunn AL (2002) Exploring the effect of the environment on physical activity: a study examining walking to work. Am J Prev Med 23:36–43

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Davenport MA, Anderson DH (2005) Getting from sense of place to place-based management: an interpretive investigation of place meanings and perceptions of landscape change. Soc Nat Resour 18:625–641

    Google Scholar 

  • Doyle R, Krasny M (2003) Participatory rural appraisal as an approach to environmental education in urban community gardens. Environ Educ Res 9:91–115

    Google Scholar 

  • Ewert AHJ (1991) Group development in the natural environment. Expectations, outcomes and techniques. Environ Behav 23:592–615

    Google Scholar 

  • Eyler AA, Baker E, Cromer L, King AC, Brownson RC, Donatelle RJ (1998) Physical activity and minority women: a qualitative study. Health Educ Behav 25:640–652

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Frank LD, Engelke PO (2001) The built environment and human activity patterns: exploring the impacts of urban form on public health. J Plan Lit 16:202–218

    Google Scholar 

  • Fredrickson LM, Anderson DH (1999) A qualitative exploration of the wilderness experience as a source of spiritual inspiration. J Environ Psychol 19:21–39

    Google Scholar 

  • French SA, Story M, Jeffery RW (2001) Environmental influences on eating and physical activity. Annu Rev Public Health 22:309–335

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Frumkin P (2001) Beyond toxicity—human health and the natural environment. Am J Prev Med 20:234–240

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Frumkin H (2003) Healthy places: exploring the evidence. Am J Public Health 93:1451–1456

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Frumkin H, Frank L, Jackson R (2004) Urban sprawl and public health. Island, Washington

  • Gasser K, Kaufmann-Hayoz R (2004) Woods, trees and human health & well-being (Wald und Volksgesundheit). Literatur und projekte aus der Schweiz. Interfakultäre Koordinationsstelle für Allgemeine Ökologie (IKAÖ), Bern

  • Ge J, Hokao K (2005) Applying the methods of image evaluation and spatial analysis to study the sound environment of urban street areas. J Environ Psychol 25:455–466

    Google Scholar 

  • Gidlöf-Gunnarsson A, Öhrström E (2007) Noise and well-being in urban residential environments: the potential role of perceived availability to nearby green areas. Landsc Urban Plan 83:115–126

    Google Scholar 

  • Giles-Corti B, Donovan RJ (2002) The relative influence of individual, social and physical environment determinants of physical activity. Soc Sci Med 54:1793–1812

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Gordon-Larsen P, Nelson MC, Page P, Popkin BM (2006) Inequality in the built environment underlies key health disparities in physical activity and obesity. Pediatrics 117:417–424

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hancock T (2001) People, partnerships and human progress: building community capital. Health Promot Int 16:275–280

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hartig T, Book A, Garvill J, Olsson T, Garling T (1996) Environmental influences on psychological restoration. Scand J Psychol 37:378–393

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hartig T, Nyberg L, Nilsson LG, Garling T (1999) Testing for mood congruent recall with environmentally induced mood. J Environ Psychol 19:353–367

    Google Scholar 

  • Hartig T, Evans GW, Jamner LD, Davis DS, Garling T (2003) Tracking restoration in natural and urban field settings. J Environ Psychol 23:109–123

    Google Scholar 

  • Health Council of the Netherlands, Dutch Advisory Council for Research on Spatial Planning NatE. Nature and Health (2004) The influence of nature on social, psychological and physical well-being. Health Council of the Netherlands and RMNO, The Hague

  • Herzog TR, Chernick KK (2000) Tranquility and danger in urban and natural settings. J Environ Psychol 20:29–39

    Google Scholar 

  • Herzog TR, Black AM, Fountaine KA, Knotts DJ (1997) Reflection and attentional recovery as distinctive benefits of restorative environments. J Environ Psychol 17:165–170

    Google Scholar 

  • Humpel N, Marshall AL, Leslie E, Bauman A, Owen N (2004a) Changes in neighborhood walking are related to changes in perceptions of environmental attributes. Ann Behav Med 27:60–67

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Humpel N, Owen N, Iverson D, Leslie E, Bauman A (2004b) Perceived environment attributes, residential location, and walking for particular purposes. Am J Prev Med 26:119–125

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ingold T (1992) Culture and the perception of the environment. In: Parkin D, Croll E (eds) Bush base, forest farm: culture, environment and development. Routledge, London, pp 39–56

  • Irvine S, Johnson L, Peters K (1999) Community gardens and sustainable land use planning: a case-study of the Alex Wilson community garden. Local Environ 4:33–46

    Google Scholar 

  • Jackson LE (2003) The relationship of urban design to human health and condition. Landsc Urban Plan 64:191–200

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan S (1995a) The restorative benefits of nature: toward an integrative framework. J Environ Psychol 15:169–182

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan S (1995b) The urban forest as a source of psychological well-being. In: Bradley GA (ed) Urban forest landscapes: integrating multidisciplinary perspectives. University of Washington Press, Seattle, pp 101–108

  • Kaplan R (2001) The nature of the view from home—psychological benefits. Environ Behav 33:507–542

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaplan R, Kaplan S (1989) The experience of nature: a psychological perspective. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge

    Google Scholar 

  • Kaspar H, Bühler E (2006) Räume und Orte als soziale Konstrukte. Plädoyer für einen verstärkten Einbezug sozialer Aspekte in die Gestaltung städtischer Parkanlagen (Spaces and places as social constructs. A plea for considering social aspects in the design of urban parks.). RaumPlanung 125:37–41

    Google Scholar 

  • Korpela K, Hartig T (1996) Restorative qualities of favorite places. J Environ Psychol 16:221–233

    Google Scholar 

  • Korpela KM, Hartig T, Kaiser FG, Fuhrer U (2001) Restorative experience and self-regulation in favorite places. Environ Behav 33:572–589

    Google Scholar 

  • Korpela KM, Klementtila T, Hietanen JK (2002) Evidence for rapid affective evaluation of environmental scenes. Environ Behav 34:634–650

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuo FE (2001) Coping with poverty—impacts of environment and attention in the inner city. Environ Behav 33:5–34

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuo FE, Sullivan WC (2001a) Aggression and violence in the inner city—effects of environment via mental fatigue. Environ Behav 33:543–571

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuo FE, Sullivan WC (2001b) Environment and crime in the inner city—does vegetation reduce crime? Environ Behav 33:343–367

    Google Scholar 

  • Kuo FE, Bacaicoa M, Sullivan WC (1998) Transforming inner-city landscapes—trees, sense of safety, and preference. Environ Behav 30:28–59

    Google Scholar 

  • Kvale S (1995) The social construction of validity. Qual Inq 1:19–40

    Google Scholar 

  • Kweon BS, Sullivan WC, Wiley AR (1998) Green common spaces and the social integration of inner-city older adults. Environ Behav 30:832–858

    Google Scholar 

  • Lamnek S (2005) Qualitative Sozialforschung. Beltz Verlag, Weinheim

    Google Scholar 

  • Lamprecht M, Stamm H (2002) Bekanntheit, Nutzung und Bewertung der Vita Parcours durch die Schweizer Bevölkerung. Unveröffentlichter Bericht, Zürich

    Google Scholar 

  • Laumann K, Garling T, Stormark KM (2003) Selective attention and heart rate responses to natural and urban environments. J Environ Psychol 23:125–134

    Google Scholar 

  • Lee JH, Scott D, Floyd MF (2001) Structural inequalities in outdoor recreation participation: a multiple hierarchy stratification perspective. J Leisure Res 33:427–449

    Google Scholar 

  • Leslie E, Saelens B, Frank L et al (2005) Residents’ perceptions of walkability attributes in objectively different neighbourhoods: a pilot study. Health Place 11:227–236

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Leyden KM (2003) Social capital and the built environment: the importance of walkable neighborhoods. Am J Public Health 93:1546–1551

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Li F, Fisher KJ, Brownson RC, Bosworth M (2005) Multilevel modelling of built environment characteristics related to neighbourhood walking activity in older adults. J Epidemiol Community Health 59:558–564

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Macintyre S (2007) Deprivation amplification revisited; or, is it always true that poorer places have poorer access to resources for healthy diets and physical activity? Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act 4:1–7

    Google Scholar 

  • Maller C, Townsend M, Pryor A, Brown P, St Leger L (2006) Healthy nature healthy people: ‘contact with nature’ as an upstream health promotion intervention for populations. Health Promot Int 21:45–54

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Marti B, Lamprecht M, Bächler J, Spring S, Gutzwiller F (2002) Bekanntheit, Nutzung und Bewertung des Vitaparcours: Vergleich zwischen 1997 und 2001 (Attitude towards, use of the fitness trail «Vitaparcours»: comparison between 1997 and 2001.). Schweiz Z Sportmedizin und Sporttraumatologie 50:161–163

    Google Scholar 

  • McCormack G, Giles-Corti B, Lange A, Smith T, Martin K, Pikora TJ (2004) An update of recent evidence of the relationship between objective and self-report measures of the physical environment and physical activity behaviours. J Sci Med Sport 7:81–92

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Milligan C, Bingley A (2007) Restorative places or scary spaces? The impact of woodland on the mental well-being of young adults. Health Place 13:799–811

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Milligan C, Gatrell A, Bingley A (2004) ‘Cultivating health’: therapeutic landscapes and older people in northern England. Soc Sci Med 58:1781–1793

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Neff LJ, Ainsworth BE, Wheeler FC, Krumwiede SE, Trepal AJ (2000) Assessment of trail use in a community park. Fam Community Health 23:76–84

    Google Scholar 

  • O’Connor P (2008) The sound of silence: valuing acoustics in heritage conservation. Geogr Res 46:361–373

    Google Scholar 

  • Oreszczyn S, Lane A (2000) The meaning of hedgerows in the English landscape: different stakeholder perspectives and the implications for future hedge management. J Environm Manage 60:101–118

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons R, Daniel TC (2002) Good looking: in defense of scenic landscape aesthetics. Landsc Urban Plan 60:43–56

    Google Scholar 

  • Parsons R, Tassinary LG, Ulrich RS, Hebl MR, Grossman-Alexander M (1998) The view from the road: implications for stress recovery and immunization. J Environ Psychol 18:113–140

    Google Scholar 

  • Payne LL, Mowen AJ, Orsega-Smith E (2002) An examination of park preferences and behaviors among urban residents: the role of residential location, race, and age. Leis Sci 24:181–198

    Google Scholar 

  • Pikora T, Giles-Corti B, Bull F, Jamrozik K, Donovan R (2003) Developing a framework for assessment of the environmental determinants of walking and cycling. Soc Sci Med 56:1693–1703

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pikora TJ, Giles-Corti B, Knuiman MW, Bull FC, Jamrozik K, Donovan RJ (2006) Neighborhood environmental factors correlated with walking near home: using SPACES. Med Sci Sports Exerc 38:708–714

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pohl SL, Borrie WT, Patterson ME (2000) Women, wilderness, and everyday life: a documentation of the connection between wilderness recreation and women’s everyday lives. J Leis Res 32:415–434

    Google Scholar 

  • Popkin BM, Duffey K, Gordon-Larsen P (2005) Environmental influences on food choice, physical activity and energy balance. Physiol Behav 86:603–613

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Porteous JD (1990) Landscapes of the mind: worlds of sense and metaphor. University of Toronto Press, Toronto

    Google Scholar 

  • Powell KE (2005) Land use, the built environment, and physical activity: a public health mixture; a public health solution. Am J Prev Med 28:216–217

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Pretty J, Griffin M, Peacock J, Hine R, Sellens M, South NA (2005a) Countryside for health and wellbeing: the physical and mental health benefits of green exercise. Sheffield Hallam University, Countryside Recreation Network, Sheffield

  • Pretty J, Peacock J, Sellens M, Griffin M (2005b) The mental and physical health outcomes of green exercise. Int J Environ Health Res 15:319–337

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Raimbault M, Dubois D (2005) Urban soundscapes: experiences and knowledge. Cities 22:339–350

    Google Scholar 

  • Rishbeth C, Finney N (2006) Novelty and nostalgia in urban greenspace: refugee perspectives. Tijdschr Econ Soc Geogr 97:281–295

    Google Scholar 

  • Saelens BE, Sallis JF, Black JB, Chen D (2003) Neighborhood-based differences in physical activity: an environment scale evaluation. Am J Public Health 93:1552–1558

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Sallis JF, Glanz K (2006) The role of built environments in physical activity, eating, and obesity in childhood. Future Child 16:89–108

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Seeland K, Ballesteros N (2004) Kulturvergleichende Untersuchungen zum sozialintegrativen Potential gestalteter urbaner Naturräume in den Agglomerationen Genf, Lugano und Zürich. Forstwissenschaftliche Beiträge 31

  • Sharpe EK (2005) Delivering communitas: wilderness adventure and the making of community. J Leisure Res 37:255–280

    Google Scholar 

  • St Leger L (2003) Health and nature—new challenges for health promotion. Health Promot Int 18:173–175

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Staats H, Hartig T (2004) Alone or with a friend: a social context for psychological restoration and environmental preferences. J Environ Psychol 24:199–211

    Google Scholar 

  • Staats H, Gatersleben B, Hartig T (1997) Change in mood as a function of environmental design: arousal and pleasure on a simulated forest hike. J Environ Psychol 17:283–300

    Google Scholar 

  • Staats H, Kieviet A, Hartig T (2003) Where to recover from attentional fatigue: an expectancy-value analysis of environmental preference. J Environ Psychol 23:147–157

    Google Scholar 

  • Steinke I (2003) Gütekriterien qualitativer Forschung. In: Flick U, von Kardorff E, Steinke I (eds) Qualitative Forschung, Ein Handbuch. Rowohlt Taschenbuch Verlag, Reinbek bei Hamburg, pp 319–331

    Google Scholar 

  • Stigsdotter U, Grahn P (2004) A garden at your doorstep may reduce stress—private gardens as restorative environments in the city. OPENspace—an international conference on inclusive environments. Edinburgh

  • Sullivan WC, Kuo FE, DePooter SF (2004) The fruit of urban nature—vital neighborhood spaces. Environ Behav 36:678–700

    Google Scholar 

  • Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (1999) Gesellschaftliche Ansprüche an den Schweizer Wald. Meinungsumfrage (Social requirements on Swiss forests. Opinion survey.). Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, Bern

    Google Scholar 

  • Takano T, Nakamura K (2004) Participatory research to enhance vision sharing for Healthy Town initiatives in Japan. Health Promot Int 19:299–307

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Tennessen C, Cimprich B (1995) Views to nature. Effects on attention. J Environ Psychol 15:77–85

    Google Scholar 

  • Titze S, Stronegger W, Owen N (2005) Prospective study of individual, social, and environmental predictors of physical activity: women’s leisure running. Psychol Sport Exerc 6:363–376

    Google Scholar 

  • Twiss J, Dickinson J, Duma S, Kleinman T, Paulsen H, Rilveria L (2003) Community gardens: lessons learned from California healthy cities and communities. Am J Public Health 93:1435–1438

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Ulrich R, Simons R, Losito B, Fiorito E, Miles M, Zelson M (1991) Stress recovery during exposure to natural and urban environments. J Environ Psychol 11:201–203

    Google Scholar 

  • Ulrich RS, Simons RF, Miles MA (2003) Effects of environmental simulations and television on blood donor stress. J Archit Plann Res 20:38–47

    Google Scholar 

  • Wakefield S, Yeudall F, Taron C, Reynolds J, Skinner A (2007) Growing urban health: community gardening in South-East Toronto. Health Promot Int 22:92–101

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Waliczek TM, Zajicek JM, Lineberger RD (2005) The influence of gardening activities on consumer perceptions of life satisfaction. Hortscience 40:1360–1365

    Google Scholar 

  • Wendel-Vos GCW, Schuit AJ, De Niet R, Boshuizen HC, Saris WHM, Kromhout D (2004) Factors of the physical environment associated with walking and bicycling. Med Sci Sports Exerc 36:725–730

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • WHO (1986) Ottawa-charter for health promotion. First International Conference on Health Promotion. Ottawa, Canada

    Google Scholar 

  • Wilbur J, Chandler P, Dancy B, Choi J, Plonczynski D (2002) Environmental, policy, and cultural factors related to physical activity in urban, African American women. Women’s Health 36:17–28

    Google Scholar 

  • Yang W, Kang J (2005) Acoustic comfort evaluation in urban open public spaces. Appl Acoust 66:211–229

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

This literature review was partly funded by the Swiss Foundation for Landscape Conservation, the Swiss Society of Doctors for the Environment, the Swiss Federal Office of Public Health, and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment. We express our appreciation to these organizations for making our scoping study possible.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Thomas Abel.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Abraham, A., Sommerhalder, K. & Abel, T. Landscape and well-being: a scoping study on the health-promoting impact of outdoor environments. Int J Public Health 55, 59–69 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-009-0069-z

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00038-009-0069-z

Keywords

  • Landscape
  • Well-being
  • Health-promoting behaviour
  • Resources
  • Scoping study