Background. Wellbeing issues are increasingly incorporated within conservation biology and environmental sciences, both in academic research and in applied policies such as the global sustainable development plans. The role of landscape on human wellbeing has been widely reported, but a comprehensive understanding of the role of soundscape has yet to be explicated. Research on the influences of sound on wellbeing has been conducted across a range of disciplines, but integration of findings is impeded by linguistic and cultural differences across disciplinary boundaries. This study presents the largest systematic literature review (2499 publications) of research to date, addressing the association between soundscape and human/ecological wellbeing.
Method. It is divided in two components: 1. rapid visualisation of publication metrics using the software VOS Viewer, and 2. analysis of the categories of wellbeing associated with soundscape using the natural language processing platform, Method52. The first component presents network diagrams created from keyword searches and cited references (lexical, temporal, spatial and source networks) that explain the origin and evolution of the field, the influences between disciplines and the main contributors to the field. Research on the topic, occurring mostly between 2004 and 2016, evolved from a medical/physiological focus, into technological and psychological/social considerations, and finally into ecological/social research.
Results. The evolution of the field was associated with the diversification of terminology and the evolution of new branches of research. Moreover, research appears to have evolved from the study of particular associations between sound and health, to an integrative multidimensional field addressing soundscape and wellbeing, across human and non-human species, including ecologically based studies. The second component includes a trained classifier that categorizes publications, based on keywords analysis, into three frameworks for understanding the association between soundscape and wellbeing: ‘Human health’, ‘Social and Cultural wellness’ and ‘Ecological integrity’.
Conclusion. This novel methodology is shown to be an effective tool for analysing large collections of data in short periods of time. In order to address the gaps found during the study, it is recommended to increase research conducted in and by non-western societies and in non-English languages, and the exploration of ecological and sociocultural aspects of wellbeing associated with soundscape.