Human responses to nature- and culture-based non-clinical interventions: a systematised review

Perspect Public Health. 2022 May;142(3):149-157. doi: 10.1177/1757913920967036. Epub 2020 Dec 15.


Aims: A wide range of non-clinical nature- and culture-based interventions for the treatment of health issues have been evaluated in evidence and systematic reviews. However, common outcomes of these interventions have not been identified and neuro-bio-psychosocial mechanisms underlying how these interventions impact health are not well understood. We conducted a systematised review and compared the evidence for human responses to nature- and culture-based non-clinical interventions for a range of health issues and assessed the proposed mechanisms and conceptual frameworks underlying these interventions.

Methods: Comprehensive searches were conducted up to May 2018 in six bibliographic databases: Campbell Collaboration, Cochrane Library, Embase, Medline, Scopus and Web of Science. Studies included were evidence reviews or systematic reviews on any nature- or culture-based non-clinical intervention to improve the health of individuals.

Results: A total of 60 reviews were included (33 of nature, 26 of culture, 1 of both) covering 1480 individual studies and trials. The most common review types were systematic (32), literature (22) and meta-analyses (6). Positive effects on mental health were reported for the majority of interventions, while other health outcomes such as immunity were not well represented in the review literature. A range of secondary outcomes were common to both nature- and culture-based interventions including psychological and emotional impacts, social interaction and relationship development, skills development, physical health benefits, and positive impact of the intervention environment. Only two reviews proposed conceptual frameworks, and the neuro-bio-psychosocial mechanisms that underpin the health changes were not clarified.

Conclusion: Future research should focus on reviewing the evidence gaps for non-clinical nature- and culture-based interventions with an emphasis on implementing larger sample sizes, cohort and longitudinal studies, which deploy a wider range of mixed-methods, quasi-experimental and randomised control trials. There should also be agreement on terminology and developing conceptual frameworks to better understand the neuro-bio-psychosocial mechanisms underlying interventions.

Keywords: culture; evidence; health; intervention; nature; review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Relaxation Therapy*