Green spaces play a crucial role in promoting sustainable and healthy lives. Recent evidence shows that green space also may reduce the need for healthcare, prescription medications, and associated costs. This systematic review provides the first comprehensive assessment of the available literature examining green space exposure and its associations with healthcare prescriptions and expenditures. We applied Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines to search MEDLINE, Scopus, and Web of Science for observational studies published in English through May 6, 2023. A quality assessment of the included studies was conducted using the Office of Health Assessment and Translation (OHAT) tool, and the Grading of Recommendations, Assessment, Development, and Evaluations (GRADE) assessment was used to evaluate the overall quality of evidence. Our search retrieved 26 studies that met the inclusion criteria and were included in our review. Among these, 20 studies (77 % of the total) showed beneficial associations of green space exposure with healthcare prescriptions or expenditures. However, most studies had risks of bias, and the overall strength of evidence for both outcomes was limited. Based on our findings and related bodies of literature, we present a conceptual framework to explain the possible associations and complex mechanisms underlying green space and healthcare outcomes. The framework differs from existing green space and health models by including upstream factors related to healthcare access (i.e., rurality and socioeconomic status), which may flip the direction of associations. Additional research with lower risks of bias is necessary to validate this framework and better understand the potential for green space to reduce healthcare prescriptions and expenditures.
Muhammad Mainuddin Patwary, Mondira Bardhan, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Thomas Astell-Burt, Matilda van den Bosch, Jiaying Dong, Angel M. Dzhambov, Payam Dadvand, Tracy Fasolino, Iana Markevych, Olivia McAnirlin, Mark J. Nieuwenhuijsen, Mathew P. White, Stephen K. Van Den Eeden, The economics of nature's healing touch: A systematic review and conceptual framework of green space, pharmaceutical prescriptions, and healthcare expenditure associations, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 914, 2024, 169635, ISSN 0048-9697, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2023.169635.