Whilst the evidence base for the benefits of natural environments is relatively well established, less is known about the specific benefits of blue spaces. Blue spaces are ‘outdoor environments – either natural or manmade – that prominently feature water and are accessible to humans either proximally (being in, on, or near water) or distally/virtually (being able to see, hear or otherwise sense water).’
The team carried out a systematic review of the quantitative evidence of the human health and wellbeing benefits of outdoor blue spaces. The team did not consider the negative impacts of exposure such as poor mental health after flooding events.
In the 35 studies that the team found there was ‘consistent evidence’ of positive associations between blue space and mental health and physical activity outcomes. The association between blue spaces and general health, cardio-vascular health and obesity were less consistent.
The team concluded that although the evidence base is currently still quite small, ‘current scientific evidence supports the promotion and recovery of outdoor blue spaces within urban planning as an interesting strategy for the promotion of health and wellbeing.’
The paper is published in the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.
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. International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.