The health impact of residential retreats: A systematic review

Naidoo, D, Schembri, A and Cohen, M 2018, 'The health impact of residential retreats: A systematic review', BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 18, no. 1, pp. 1-17.

Document type: Journal Article
Collection: Journal Articles

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Title The health impact of residential retreats: A systematic review
Author(s) Naidoo, D
Schembri, A
Cohen, M
Year 2018
Journal name BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine
Volume number 18
Issue number 1
Start page 1
End page 17
Total pages 17
Publisher BioMed Central
Abstract Background: Unhealthy lifestyles are a major factor in the development and exacerbation of many chronic diseases. Improving lifestyles though immersive residential experiences that promote healthy behaviours is a focus of the health retreat industry. This systematic review aims to identify and explore published studies on the health, wellbeing and economic impact of retreat experiences. Methods: MEDLINE, CINAHL and PsychINFO databases were searched for residential retreat studies in English published prior to February 2017. Studies were included if they were written in English, involved an intervention program in a residential setting of one or more nights, and included before-and-after data related to the health of participants. Studies that did not meet the above criteria or contained only descriptive data from interviews or case studies were excluded. Results: A total of 23 studies including eight randomised controlled trials, six non-randomised controlled trials and nine longitudinal cohort studies met the inclusion criteria. These studies included a total of 2592 participants from diverse geographical and demographic populations and a great heterogeneity of outcome measures, with seven studies examining objective outcomes such as blood pressure or biological makers of disease, and 16 studies examining subjective outcomes that mostly involved self-reported questionnaires on psychological and spiritual measures. All studies reported post-retreat health benefits ranging from immediately after to five-years post-retreat. Study populations varied widely and most studies had small sample sizes, poorly described methodology and little follow-up data, and no studies reported on health economic outcomes or adverse effects, making it difficult to make definite conclusions about specific conditions, safety or return on investment. Conclusions: Health retreat experiences appear to have health benefits that include benefits for people with chronic diseases such as multiple
Subject Complementary and Alternative Medicine not elsewhere classified
Keyword(s) Cancer
Heart disease
Medical tourism
Mental health
Multiple sclerosis
Retreat experience
Wellness tourism
DOI - identifier 10.1186/s12906-017-2078-4
Copyright notice © The Author(s). 2018 Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.
ISSN 1472-6882
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