Environmental heterogeneity in human health studies. A compositional methodology for Land Use and Land cover data

Joaquim Zaldo Aubanell, Isabel Serra Mochales, Albert Bach Pages, Pablo Knobel Guelar, Ferran Campillo i López, Jordina Belmonte, Pepus Daunis-I-Estadella, Roser Maneja Zaragoza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


The use of Land use and Land cover (LULC) data is gradually becoming more widely spread in studies relating the environment to human health. However, little research has acknowledged the compositional nature of these data. The goal of the present study is to explore, for the first time, the independent effect of eight LULC categories (agricultural land, bare land, coniferous forest, broad-leaved forest, sclerophyll forest, grassland and shrubs, urban areas, and waterbodies) on three selected common health conditions: type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM), asthma and anxiety, using a compositional methodological approach and leveraging observational health data of Catalonia (Spain) at area level. We fixed the risk exposure scenario using three covariates (socioeconomic status, age group, and sex). Then, we assessed the independent effect of the eight LULC categories on each health condition. Our results show that each LULC category has a distinctive effect on the three health conditions and that the three covariates clearly modify this effect. This compositional approach has yielded plausible results supported by the existing literature, highlighting the relevance of environmental heterogeneity in health studies. In this sense, we argue that different types of envi-ronment possess exclusive biotic and abiotic elements affecting distinctively on human health. We believe our contribution might help researchers approach the environment in a more multidimensional man-ner integrating environmental heterogeneity in the analysis. (c) 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages12
JournalScience of the total environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Anxiety
  • Asthma
  • Compositional analysis
  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Land use and Land cover
  • Type 2 diabetes mellitus


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