“Greening” urban areas could improve our mental health

Kristin Hunt | World Economic Forum | 27/07/2018

You might’ve noticed that you feel calmer, even happier, when you’re walking through a lush park or forest. This is no coincidence — spending time in nature has been linked to multiple mental health benefits, including stress relief and a better sense of well-being. Stanford scientists even believe a 90 minute walk in the woods can lead to a lower risk of depression.

Now, a new study suggests that “greening” abandoned lots in urban areas could improve the mental health of city dwellers.

The research, recently published in JAMA Open Network, was conducted in a cluster of Philadelphia communities, all located near a vacant lot. At the start of the study, these lots were littered with trash and overgrown grass. But not all of them would stay that way.

With the help of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society LandCare program, the researchers gave some of these lots a “greening intervention,” enlisting a crew of workers to clear out the garbage, plant new grass and trees, and perform maintenance each month. Other lots were limited to a trash cleanup. And some were left completely untouched.