We came across a recent article that answers the question: does living near a park or green space really improve our mental health? Turns out, it can. According to the post on Psych Central, “Turning vacant urban land into green spaces significantly reduces feelings of depression and improves overall mental health for the surrounding residents.”
From Psych Central:
The findings [of the study] have implications for cities across the United States, where 15 percent of land is deemed “vacant” and often blighted or filled with trash and overgrown vegetation, according to researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and the School of Arts & Sciences at the University of Pennsylvania.
The research team measured the mental health of Philadelphia residents before and after nearby vacant lots had been converted into green spaces, as well as residents living near untreated abandoned lots and those that just received trash clean-up.
They found that people living within a quarter of a mile radius of greened lots had a 41.5 percent decrease in feelings of depression compared to those who lived near the lots that had not been cleaned.
People living near green lots also experienced a nearly 63 percent decrease in self-reported poor mental health compared to those living near lots that received no intervention, the researchers discovered.
The findings add to the growing body of evidence showing how revitalized spaces in blighted urban areas can help improve safety and health, such as reducing crime, violence, and stress levels.
The most recent study from the same research team in February found up to a 29 percent decrease in gun violence near treated lots.
“Dilapidated and vacant spaces are factors that put residents at an increased risk of depression and stress, and may explain why socioeconomic disparities in mental illness persist,” said lead author Eugenia C. South, M.D., M.S.H.P., an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and a member of the Center for Emergency Care and Policy Research at Penn.
“What these new data show us is that making structural changes, like greening lots, has a positive impact on the health of those living in these neighborhoods. And that it can be achieved in a cost-effective and scalable way, not only in Philadelphia but in other cities with the same harmful environmental surroundings.”
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