top of page

Nature & Health

The psychological and physical effects of forests on human health: a systematic review of systematic reviews and meta-analyzes

Published by MDPI journals  ( 2021)


This research article deals with a systematic review of meta-analyzes (MAs) on the preventive and therapeutic psychological and physical effects of forest-based interventions. Eight databases were searched for relevant articles: MEDLINE, Embase, Web of Science, Cochrane Library, PsycInfo, CiNii, EBSCO, and Scopus. Evidence suggests beneficial therapeutic effects of forest-based interventions on hypertension, stress, and mental health disorders, such as depression and anxiety. Today, an increasing number of people around the world live in urban rather than rural areas. This amounted to 55% of the world population in 2018 and the trend is increasing. As the world continues to urbanize, the value of natural environments, green spaces and forests for the quality of life and well-being of urban populations is becoming increasingly evident. Exposure to nature and green environments is increasingly recognized as an important resource for stress recovery and overall health.  (Corazón SS et al. 2019 )

The Greater Tokyo Area is one of the largest metropolitan regions in the world with approximately 37 million inhabitants. It is therefore not surprising that the idea of forest immersion originated in Japan. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries introduced the idea of forest immersion (Japanese: "Shinrin-Yoku") in the early 1980s and funded a large research program to demonstrate its medical and therapeutic effects. The first "forest therapy" center was subsequently opened and Japanese universities now offer a medical specialization in "forest medicine". In other Far Eastern countries, such as South Korea and China, forest bathing is also a recognized form of disease therapy and prevention with a decades-long tradition. The concept of Forest Bathing has also arrived in the Western world.  Scandinavian countries were among the first European countries to implement projects on the healing effects of forests such as "Green Steps" in Sweden, "Power Trail at Ikaalinen Spa" in Finland and "Nacadia Therapy Forest Garden" in Denmark. Healthy people with pre-existing conditions participate in forest therapy programs of various kinds for preventive and therapeutic purposes both in the United States and in Europe. Forest Bathing has become a global trend as a reaction to the current flow of stimuli and hectic daily life in our modern society. The methods applied in forest prevention and therapy programs vary widely. A key component is the perception of the forest environment with all five senses, which can be combined with meditation and forest walks or hikes, as well as various other recreational activities and cognitive behavioral therapies. In Germany, forest therapy and forest bathing have been successfully combined with classical naturopathic elements, such as immersion in water (e.g. Kneipp therapy) and climatotherapy (climatic soil care, heliotherapy, relaxation in the air open) to improve the health benefits of forest therapy. Forest therapy and its alleged preventive effects have recently received increasing attention in the international scientific world. Many international studies have reported the beneficial health effects of exposure to the forest environment on both the body and mind.  

Click on the links to find out more:


bottom of page