Within What Distance Does "Greenness" Best Predict Physical Health? A Systematic Review of Articles with GIS Buffer Analyses across the Lifespan

Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017 Jun 23;14(7):675. doi: 10.3390/ijerph14070675.


Is the amount of "greenness" within a 250-m, 500-m, 1000-m or a 2000-m buffer surrounding a person's home a good predictor of their physical health? The evidence is inconclusive. We reviewed Web of Science articles that used geographic information system buffer analyses to identify trends between physical health, greenness, and distance within which greenness is measured. Our inclusion criteria were: (1) use of buffers to estimate residential greenness; (2) statistical analyses that calculated significance of the greenness-physical health relationship; and (3) peer-reviewed articles published in English between 2007 and 2017. To capture multiple findings from a single article, we selected our unit of inquiry as the analysis, not the article. Our final sample included 260 analyses in 47 articles. All aspects of the review were in accordance with PRISMA guidelines. Analyses were independently judged as more, less, or least likely to be biased based on the inclusion of objective health measures and income/education controls. We found evidence that larger buffer sizes, up to 2000 m, better predicted physical health than smaller ones. We recommend that future analyses use nested rather than overlapping buffers to evaluate to what extent greenness not immediately around a person's home (i.e., within 1000-2000 m) predicts physical health.

Keywords: Geographic Information System (GIS); Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI); buffers; green space; greenness; health outcomes; park; physical health; systematic review.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Environment*
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Housing
  • Humans
  • Recreation
  • Urban Population*