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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Impact of green space on mental health: 10/01/2018

Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health-oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

When adults live in neighborhoods where vacant lots are turned into green spaces, their mental health improves — suggests a pioneering study (with an accompanying editorial) recently published in JAMA Network Open.

Specifically, the study suggests adults experience comparative, significant reductions in feeling depressed and worthless when vacant lots in blighted neighborhoods are turned into green spaces. In a cluster randomized trial, similar reductions did not occur when vacant lots were untouched — or cleared without planting small green spaces.

Interestingly, the study suggests increased reductions in feeling depressed and worthless occur in lower income neighborhoods compared to wealthier areas.

The researchers used a well-established scale of psychological distress to measure feeling depressed and worthless — and the study had 442 participants divided within three control groups in Philadelphia.

In an accompanying editorial, the authors suggest the research is the first cluster randomized control trial (RCT) in general populations to assess whether building green spaces near residences improves the mental health of the surrounding neighbors.

The editorial's authors write (and we quote): 'The study is important for several reasons. It is likely the first RCT to investigate mental health benefits of green space.... The greening intervention in the study specifically limited active use of the green space, as all greened lots had fences placed around them to reduce entry. This suggests an effect of simply seeing nature as opposed to interaction with nature through, for instance, physical activity' (end of quote).

The editorial's authors add (and we quote): 'Beyond the direct benefits of improved mental health, greening cities holds many other cobenefits. Green spaces have been shown to reduce heat-related morbidity and mortality in urban areas, and when properly designed, they may also reduce local noise levels and air pollution concentrations and may improve stormwater management' (end of quote).

The editorial's authors conclude (and we quote): 'As evidence accumulates on health benefits of greening from this study and others, investments in greening cities will become better justified, possibly providing cost efficient solutions for dealing with current and future challenges to the health of ecosystems and people' (end of quote).

Meanwhile, the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research provides an overview of how to mentally thrive in the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's mental health health topic page.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration adds how to create a healthier life in the 'specifics' section of MedlinePlus.gov's mental health health topic page.

Links to the latest pertinent journal research articles about mental health are available in the 'journal articles' section of MedlinePlus.gov's mental health health topic page. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area also are available in the 'clinical trials' section.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's mental health health topic page, please type 'mental health' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'mental health (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages on depression and mental disorders.

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It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!