Greening Vacant Land Improves Neighborhood Mental Health

Cleaning up vacant lots in resource-limited urban settings can aid residents' mental health.
Cleaning up vacant lots in resource-limited urban settings can aid residents' mental health.

HealthDay News — Fixing up blighted physical environments, particularly in resource-limited urban settings, may improve the mental health of residents living nearby, according to a study published in the July issue of JAMA Network Open.

Eugenia C. South, MD, from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, and colleagues evaluated whether interventions to green vacant urban land can improve self-reported mental health among 342 community-dwelling adults living in Philadelphia. A total of 110 clusters were randomly assigned to the greening intervention (removing trash, grading the land, planting new grass and trees, installing a low wooden perimeter fence, and performing regular monthly maintenance), the trash cleanup intervention (removal of trash, limited grass mowing, and regular monthly maintenance), or a control group. 

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The researchers observed a significant decrease in participants who were feeling depressed (P=0.03) and worthless (P=.04), among those assigned to greening versus the control. Furthermore, there was a non-significant reduction in overall self-reported poor mental health (P=0.051). The greening intervention demonstrated a significant decrease in feeling depressed (P=.007) among participants living in neighborhoods below the poverty line. There were no significant changes in self-reported poor mental health among those living near the trash clean-up intervention versus control lots not assigned to an intervention.

"The treatment of blighted physical environments, particularly in resource-limited urban settings, can be an important treatment for mental health problems alongside other patient-level treatments," the authors write.

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