How should forests be characterized in regard to human health? Evidence from existing literature

Albert Bach Pagès*, Josep Peñuelas, Jana Clarà, Joan Llusià, Ferran Campillo I. López, Roser Maneja

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleResearchpeer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)


The potential of forests as a source of health has been addressed by the scientific community and is now being considered in national forest strategies, management plans and policies. Studies identifying the mechanisms by which forest characteristics may induce these effects on human health are nevertheless scarce. This systematic review of literature on forests and human health with real-life human exposure was conducted to assess the extent to which forests have been studied and described in detail and the extent to which relationships between forest variables and health effects have been reported. The analysis underlines the lack of forest descriptions in 19.35% of the 62 studies selected for review as well as the high heterogeneity of forest variables’ description. Patterns among the articles could not be identified correlating the broader forest variable (forest type) and the most studied health variables identified (blood pressure, pulse rate or/and cortisol levels). These findings, together with previous ex situ researches, suggest the need to ameliorate and incorporate more accurate descriptions of forest variables within human health studies to provide data for forest management and the potential use of these habitats for preventive medicine and clinical practice guidelines.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1027
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


  • Forest characterization
  • Forest exposure
  • Forest management
  • Human health
  • Preventive medicine
  • Shinrin-yoku


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