Aims: This study focused on the newest evidence of the relationship between forest environmental exposure and human health and assessed the health efficacy of forest bathing on the human body as well as the methodological quality of a single study, aiming to provide scientific guidance for interdisciplinary integration of forestry and medicine.
Method: Through PubMed, Embase, and Cochrane Library, 210 papers from January 1, 2015, to April 1, 2019, were retrieved, and the final 28 papers meeting the inclusion criteria were included in the study.
Result: The methodological quality of papers included in the study was assessed quantitatively with the Downs and Black checklist. The methodological quality of papers using randomized controlled trials is significantly higher than that of papers using non-randomized controlled trials (p < 0.05). Papers included in the study were analyzed qualitatively. The results demonstrated that forest bathing activities might have the following merits: remarkably improving cardiovascular function, hemodynamic indexes, neuroendocrine indexes, metabolic indexes, immunity and inflammatory indexes, antioxidant indexes, and electrophysiological indexes; significantly enhancing people's emotional state, attitude, and feelings towards things, physical and psychological recovery, and adaptive behaviors; and obvious alleviation of anxiety and depression.
Conclusion: Forest bathing activities may significantly improve people's physical and psychological health. In the future, medical empirical studies of forest bathing should reinforce basic studies and interdisciplinary exchange to enhance the methodological quality of papers while decreasing the risk of bias, thereby raising the grade of paper evidence.
Keywords: Forest bathing (Shinrin-yoku); Methodology; Systematic review.