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Turning vacant lots into green spaces improves mental health, Penn study finds

Residents reported a decrease in depression when nearby vacant lots were turned into green spaces


A recent study found that Philly residents reported a decrease in depression when vacant lots near them were turned into green spaces—or at least just cleaned up.

The study, conducted by University of Pennsylvania researchers and released last week, examined the effects of greening on nearly 450 Philly residents who lived near vacant lots. Over the course of 18 months, some residents saw their nearby lots greened, meaning trash was removed, new grass and trees were planted, a fence was put in, and regular maintenance was done. Others saw only regular trash cleanup in their vacant lots. The final group’s vacant lots remained untouched.

After the study was conducted, residents in the first two groups noted a significant decrease in feelings of depression and worthlessness, according to the study.

“Neighborhood physical conditions, including vacant or dilapidated spaces, trash, and lack of quality infrastructure such as sidewalks and parks, are associated with depression,” researchers wrote in the study findings.

“Spending time and living near green spaces have been associated with various improved mental health outcomes, including less depression, anxiety, and stress.”

  • Effect of Greening Vacant Land on Mental Health of Community-Dwelling Adults [JAMA]