Positive health effects of the natural outdoor environment in typical populations of different regions in Europe (PHENOTYPE) project.


Indications exist that close contact with nature brings benefits to human health and wellbeing, but the mechanisms are not well understood. Most of the research has been conducted in the Northwest of Europe and USA. This leaves a need for a more robust evidence base on links between exposure to natural outdoor environment and human health and well-being across Europe. Furthermore, inconsistency and variation in indicators for green or natural space have often made it difficult to compare results from different studies. PHENOTYPE is intended to provide a better understanding of the potential mechanisms, and better integration of human health needs into land use planning and green space management.

phenotype team

PHENOTYPE is focused on the integration of human health needs, and the translation of the research outcomes into recommendations for policy makers and guidelines for professional practitioners.

It will include both positive effects and preconditions for the natural environment to have a positive effect on health. To accomplish this, PHENOTYPE will investigate the interconnections between exposure to natural outdoor environments (rural and urban) and better human health and wellbeing and particularly. The underlying mechanisms will be identified and examined for different population groups. The project will further examine the effects of different characteristics of the natural outdoor environment, and address the implications for land-use planning and green space management.

PHENOTYPE will use a multidisciplinary and integrated approach using the best and most efficient methods to understand the relation between exposure to the natural environment and health.

It will specifically address in-depth the potential mechanisms associated, and translate these findings into potential policies and management practices, taking into account potential regional, social and/or cultural differences. Stakeholders will play an active role throughout the work.

Spaces that we include in our research are:

Green spaces: roof gardens, city parks, court yards,… 
"Greenery": forests, nature reserves/parks, mountains, farmland, trees, landscaping,…
Blue spaces: water such as canals, ponds, creeks, rivers, beaches etc

The importance of both quantitative and qualitative characteristics of the natural environment will be assessed by collecting detailed data on these characteristics using a combination of methods of techniques.

The focus will be on the day-to-day environments in which people live, other places where they spend time, and the effects on mental and physical health. For this, volunteers from different health, cultural and social backgrounds in Lithuania, the Netherlands, Spain and United Kingdom are being recruited to complete questions relating to their environment and emotions when prompted by mobile-phone software, Calfit.

Results of the research will be analysed with input from stakeholders from areas including urban planning, medical, academic and policy development professions. It will be translated into a common language and recommendations to the European Commission and national level organisations for integration in policies directly or indirectly affecting human health.