Green Space Really Does Improve Mental Health

A new study published in July is one of the first substantial pieces of research that directly links “greening” vacant and blighted lots to improved mental health and reduced depressive symptoms. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, more than 16 million adults in the United States – 6.7% of the population – reported having at least one major depressive episode in the past year. While we at Grounded Strategies understand the the positive connections between “greening” vacant lots and community health, this research was long overdue.

One example of a green space that Grounded was a part of. This beautiful amenity can be found in Clairton.

The impact of community-based improvements on individuals’ mental health is somewhat well-documented, but, before this study, there was not much research that scientifically defines “greening” blighted vacant lots as being the catalyst for reducing depressive symptoms. This research is ground-breaking because it provides support for macro-level initiatives that can have important effects on micro-level aspects of community members’ experiences. This is the first study that supports that green spaces causes an improved outlook.

The study, based in Philadelphia, PA, assigned one of three treatments to about 540 blighted vacant lots throughout the city. The three treatments were one of the following: “greening,” which involves removing trash, installing a low wooden fence and plants, and monthly maintenance; “trash clean-up,” which involves removing trash, limited trash mowing and monthly maintenance; or no treatment at all.

Residents were then randomly interviewed about their mental health in regards to feelings of nervousness, hopelessness, restlessness, depression and worthlessness. These interviews were done both before and after the lots were either “greened” or not. The results showed that community members living near the most maintained spaces experienced significant reductions in depressive symptoms compared to those living near the untouched lots.

Dr. Eugenia South, the doctor and professor at the University of Pennsylvania who conducted this study, suggests that “greening” vacant lots reduces stress, provides relief for people who feel overstimulated, increases social connection and, on a community level, reduces violent crime. She also hopes that this research will reach doctors who often forget to ask about the environment in which people live and how the environment impacts patients’ health.

Here at Grounded Strategies, we believe this research is one more step in the right direction. We wholeheartedly believe that community greenspace can positively impact a community and aim to continue working with community members who have a vision to turn vacant lots into assets in their neighborhoods.

To read more about this study please visit: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamanetworkopen/fullarticle/2688343

 

Sources: South, Eugenia C., et al. “Effect of Greening Vacant Land on Mental Health of Community-Dwelling Adults.” JAMA Network Open, vol. 1, no. 3, 20 July 2018, doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.0298.

Suttie, Jill. “Why Your Community Needs More Green Space.” Greater Good Magazine, University of California, Berkeley, 11 Sept. 2018, greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/ why_your_community_needs_more_green_space.

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