22 April 2015
Many studies conducted during the last decade suggest the mental health benefits of green and blue spaces. We aimed to systematically review the available literature on the long-term mental health benefits of residential green and blue spaces by including studies that used standardized tools or objective measures of both the exposures and the outcomes of interest. We followed the PRISMA statement guidelines for reporting systematic reviews and meta-analysis. In total 28 studies were included in the systematic review. We found limited evidence for a causal relationship between surrounding greenness and mental health in adults, whereas the evidence was inadequate in children. The evidence was also inadequate for the other exposures evaluated (access to green spaces, quality of green spaces, and blue spaces) in both adults and children. The main limitation was the limited number of studies, together with the heterogeneity regarding exposure assessment. Given the increase in mental health problems and the current rapid urbanization worldwide, results of the present systematic review should be taken into account in future urban planning. However, further research is needed to provide more consistent evidence and more detailed information on the mechanisms and the characteristics of the green and blue spaces that promote better mental health. We provide recommendations for future studies in order to provide consistent and evidence-based recommendations for policy makers.