New global report confirms that forests reduce health risks

Forests and green spaces have positive effects on our physical, mental, social and spiritual health. This comprehensive assessment received the contribution of 44 scientists and experts with diverse backgrounds.

Forests and trees offer shade, food and water in regions suffering increasingly from drought and heat, such as Morocco, but are threatened at the same time. Photo: A. Buck, IUFRO

The global scientific evidence of the multiple types of benefits that forests, trees and green spaces have on human health has now been assessed by an international and interdisciplinary team of scientists. The outcome was presented on 21 March, International Day of Forests, in a major report titled “Forests and Trees for Human Health: Pathways, Impacts, Challenges and Response Options” by the Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) Programme of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).

Existing evidence strongly supports a wide range of physical, mental, social and spiritual health benefits associated with forests and green spaces. They have positive effects, e.g., on the neurodevelopment in children, on diabetes, cancer, depression, stress-related disorders, cognitive aging and longevity, and are critical for enhancing social interactions, recreation and relaxation. Although all life stages are impacted, starting from the prenatal stage, the significant effects on children are particularly important, not least because of repercussions in later life.

This peer-reviewed assessment is the most comprehensive on this topic to date and has been carried out by the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Human Health in the frame of the IUFRO-led Joint Initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF). A total of 44 scientists and experts have contributed to this assessment, with a core Expert Panel of 16 scientists with diverse expertise, including forestry, ecology, landscape design, psychology, medicine, epidemiology and public health. Authors and reviewers are from across the globe and represent different genders.

The report highlights the important contribution of forests and trees to the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its goals, particularly Goal 3 (SDG 3), which aims to “ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages.”

IUFRO World Series Volume 41, Vienna 2023
Editors: Cecil Konijnendijk, Dikshya Devkota, Stephanie Mansourian and Christoph Wildburger

Find out more and download the Report and related Policy Brief

Media release and photos

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The International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) is a non-profit, non-governmental international network of forest scientists, which promotes global cooperation in forest-related research and enhances the understanding of the ecological, economic and social aspects of forests and trees. IUFRO unites more than 15,000 scientists in almost 700 Member Organizations in over 110 countries, and is a member of ICSU.