The effects of changes to the built environment on the mental health and well-being of adults: Systematic review

Health Place. 2018 Sep:53:237-257. doi: 10.1016/j.healthplace.2018.07.012. Epub 2018 Sep 6.


There is increasing interest in the influence of place on health, and the need to distinguish between environmental and individual level factors. For environmental-level factors, current evidence tends to show associations through cross-sectional and uncontrolled longitudinal analyses rather than through more robust study designs that can provide stronger causal evidence. We restricted this systematic review to randomised (or cluster) randomised controlled trials and controlled before-and-after studies of changes to the built environment. Date of search was December 2016. We identified 14 studies. No evidence was found of an effect on mental health from 'urban regeneration' and 'improving green infrastructure' studies. Beneficial effects on quality-of-life outcomes from 'improving green infrastructure' were found in two studies. One 'improving green infrastructure' study reported an improvement in social isolation. Risk-of-bias assessment indicated robust data from only four studies. Overall, evidence for the impact of built environment interventions on mental health and quality-of-life is weak. Future research requires more robust study designs and interdisciplinary research involving public health, planning and urban design experts.

Keywords: Mental health; Meta-analysis; Systematic review; Urban environment; Well-being.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Built Environment*
  • Environment Design*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Quality of Life
  • Urban Population