Background: Over half of the world's population now lives in urban areas, and this proportion is expected to increase. While there have been numerous reviews of empirical studies on the link between nature and human health, very few have focused on the urban context, and most have examined almost exclusively cross-sectional research. This review is a first step toward assessing the possibility of causal relationships between nature and health in urban settings. Methods: Through systematic review of published literature, we explored the association between urban green space and human health. Results: We found consistent negative association between urban green space exposure and mortality, heart rate, and violence, and positive association with attention, mood, and physical activity. Results were mixed, or no association was found, in studies of urban green space exposure and general health, weight status, depression, and stress (via cortisol concentration). The number of studies was too low to generalize about birth outcomes, blood pressure, heart rate variability, cancer, diabetes, or respiratory symptoms. Conclusions: More studies using rigorous study design are needed to make generalizations, and meta-analyses, of these and other health outcomes possible. These findings may assist urban managers, organizations, and communities in their efforts to increase new or preserve existing green space.
Keywords: green space; health; nature; urban; violence.