Plant A Tree, Improve Mental Health?

People who spend more time near green spaces have lower risks for depression and anxiety…
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Plant A Tree, Improve Mental Health?

Steven Dubovsky, MD reviewing South EC et al. JAMA Netw Open 2018 Jul 20

Cleaning up vacant lots and planting new trees seemed to improve negative feelings in an urban study.

People who spend more time near green spaces have lower risks for depression and anxiety, but it is not clear whether green space improves mental health or people with better mental health are more likely to live near green spaces. In this study, 541 blighted vacant lots in non-overlapping areas were randomized to greening (cleaning up trash, planting new grass and trees, regular maintenance, and a low wooden fence), cleaning (cleaning up trash, limited mowing, regular maintenance), or no change. Household surveys were used to obtain self-reports from 342 people living nearby of their mental health in the previous month, both preintervention and 18 months later.

At 18 months, people living near lots that underwent greening had significant decreases in self-reported depressive feelings, by 42%, and feelings of worthlessness, by 51%, compared with neighbors of control lots. Overall self-reported poor mental health was nonsignificantly decreased. Decreases in depressed feelings were greater in neighborhoods below the poverty line. No significant differences were seen in people living near cleanup versus control lots.

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