HealthDay News — Increased exposure to total green space, and urban tree canopy specifically, is associated with a reduced incidence of psychological distress, according to a study published online July 26 in JAMA Network Open.

Thomas Astell-Burt, Ph.D., and Xiaoqi Feng, Ph.D., from the University of Wollongong in Australia, examined whether total green space or specific types of green space are associated with better mental health. Data were obtained from a city-dwelling sample of 46,786 participants in the baseline of the Sax Institute’s 45 and Up Study.

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The researchers found that exposures of 30 percent or more total green space, and tree canopy specifically, correlated with a lower incidence of psychological distress based on odds ratios adjusted for age, sex, income, economic status, couple status, and education level (odds ratios, 0.46 and 0.69, respectively). Compared with 0 to 9 percent, exposure to tree canopy of 30 percent or more correlated with a lower incidence of fair to poor general health (odds ratio, 0.67). Compared with 0 to 4 percent, exposure to grass of 30 percent or more correlated with higher odds of incident fair to poor general health and prevalent psychological distress (odds ratios, 1.47 and 1.71, respectively). Correlations with prevalent or incident depression or anxiety were not seen for any green space indicator.

“Our findings suggest that urban greening strategies with a remit for supporting community mental health should prioritize the protection and restoration of urban tree canopy,” the authors write.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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