The impact of blue space on human health and well-being - Salutogenetic health effects of inland surface waters: a review

Int J Hyg Environ Health. 2011 Nov;214(6):449-60. doi: 10.1016/j.ijheh.2011.05.001. Epub 2011 Jun 12.


Water is one of the most important physical, aesthetic landscape elements and possesses importance e.g. in environmental psychology, landscape design, and tourism research, but the relationship between water and health in current literature is only investigated in the field of environmental toxicology and microbiology, not explicitly in the research field of blue space and human well-being. Due to the lack of a systematic review of blue space and well-being in the various fields of research, the aim of this review is to provide a systematic, qualitative meta-analysis of existing studies that are relevant to this issue. Benefits for health and well-being clearly related to blue space can be identified with regard to perception and preference, landscape design, emotions, and restoration and recreation. Additionally, direct health benefits have already been stated. The studies included in the review are mostly experimental studies or cross-sectional surveys, focusing on students as the subject group. There is a need for more qualitative and multi-faceted, interdisciplinary studies, using triangulation as a method to achieve a resilient image of reality. A broader study design considering all age groups would contribute to identifying benefits for the whole of society. The inattentiveness to blue space makes it difficult to measure long-term effects of blue space on well-being. There is still little respect for water and health in planning issues, although salutogenetic health benefits can be identified. To close the gap regarding missing systematic concepts, a concept for assessing salutogenetic health effects in blue space is provided. Blue space is considered therein as a multi-dimensional term including four dimensions of appropriation, as well as at least five ontological dimensions of substantiality. The aim of the concept is to support researchers and practitioners analysing health effects in blue space.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Fresh Water*
  • Health*
  • Humans
  • Perception
  • Recreation*
  • Social Planning*