2019

Living near green space boosts teenagers’ mental health, UCLA study finds

two boys

Teenagers who live within a few blocks of green space are more likely to have better mental health than teens who don’t, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research.

Researchers used California Health Interview Survey data from 2011 to 2014,  combined with information from a satellite-generated map showing the density of vegetation. They found that when the level of “greenness” within 350 meters of a home — a radius of approximately two city blocks — is in the top 25 percentile, a teen living in that home is 36 percent less likely to have serious psychological distress than a teen living in an area with greenness in the bottom 25 percentile.

The study, published in the journal Health & Place, also found that adults 65 and older who have greater exposure to greenness also have lower rates of serious psychological distress, although younger adults do not have the same mental health benefit as seniors.

According to previous research, that may be because older teens and seniors are more likely to stay within their neighborhoods and have a stronger response to their local environment. Meng said that because teens’ brains are still developing, the finding that teens benefit more from being near green space is significant.

“The study suggests that older adults and teens seem to respond well mentally to nearby ‘doses’ of plants and trees,” said Ying-Ying Meng, co-director of the center’s Chronic Disease Program and a co-author of the study.

Pan Wang, the study’s lead author and a former statistician at the center, said city and neighborhood planners should be aware that greater numbers of trees and more park space can support the health of teens and seniors in their communities. She added that residents can also contribute by planting trees on their own property.

“Making a neighborhood greener and healthier is a mission that involves everybody,” she said.

Other authors of the study are Ninez Ponce, director of the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, and Vanessa Lam, a former research associate at the center.

-By Venetia Lai

Faculty Referenced by this Article

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Ying-Ying Meng
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Ninez Ponce
Ninez Ponce
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Dr. Thomas Rice
Thomas Rice
Health Policy and Management
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Aronberg, Sandra
Sandra Aronberg
Health Policy and Management
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Pamela Davidson
Health Policy and Management
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Ron D. Hays
Ron D. Hays

@UCLA since 1997

Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Joann Elmore
Joann G. Elmore
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Felicia Hodge
Felicia Hodge
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Xi Zhu
Xi Zhu
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Beth Glenn
Beth Glenn
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Robert Brook
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Lori Pelliccioni
Health Policy and Management
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William J. McCarthy
Health Policy and Management
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Dylan Roby
Health Policy and Management
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Dr. Kristen Choi
Kristen Choi
Health Policy and Management
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Robert Kaplan
Robert Kaplan
Health Policy and Management
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Naomi Zewde
Health Policy and Management
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Patricia Ganz
Patricia Ganz
Health Policy and Management
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Emmeline Chuang
Health Policy and Management
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Barbara Berman
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Susan Ettner
Health Policy and Management
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Corrina Moucheraud
Corrina Moucheraud
Health Policy and Management
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Gerald Kominski
Health Policy and Management
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Jose J. Escarce
Health Policy and Management
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Ron Andersen

Dr. Ron Andersen is the Wasserman Professor Emeritus in the UCLA Departments of Health Policy and Management.

Health Policy and Management
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Aria Fallah
Health Policy and Management
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Elizabeth (Becky) Yano
Health Policy and Management
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Mark Litwin
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Arturo Vargas Bustamante
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Linda Rosenstock
Environmental Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Jeanne Miranda
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Jean Balgrosky
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Daniel Eisenberg
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Leah Vriesman
Health Policy and Management
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Galper, Michael
Michael Galper
Health Policy and Management
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James Macinko
James Macinko

Professor of Community Health Sciences & Health Policy and Management, and Associate Dean for Research

Community Health Sciences Health Policy and Management
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Clifford Ko
Clifford Ko
Health Policy and Management
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Julie A. Elginer

EMPH Academic Program Director with expertise in healthcare marketing, finance, and reproductive health policy, teaching in the EMPH, MPH, MHA program

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Diana Hilberman
Diana Hilberman
Health Policy and Management
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Paul Fu, Jr.
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Paul Chung
Paul Chung
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Isomi Miake-Lye
Health Policy and Management
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Stephanie L. Taylor

Nationally recognized health services researcher and sociomedical scientist with 25+ years' experience in effectiveness and implementation research.

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William Comanor
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Arlene Fink
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Vickie Mays
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Z. John Lu
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Warren Scott Comulada
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Kenneth Wells
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Thomas Priselac
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Deborah Anne Freund
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Roshan Bastani
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Samuel Sessions
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Frederick Zimmerman
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Emily Abel
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Jody Heymann
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Burt Cowgill
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Srikanth Kadiyala
Health Policy and Management
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Lillian Gelberg
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Carol Mangione
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Yusuke Tsugawa
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Risha Gidwani
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Nadereh Pourat
Health Policy and Management
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Alice Kuo
Health Policy and Management
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Michelle Keller
Michelle S. Keller

Dr. Michelle S. Keller is a health services researcher whose research focuses on the use and prescribing of high-risk medications.

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Neal Halfon
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Sangeeta Ahluwalia
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Jennifer Wortham
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Moira Inkelas
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Thomas D. Gordon
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Ty Robbins
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Yvonne Flores
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Jack Needleman
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Laura Erskine
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Anthony Hunter Schiff
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Avram Kaplan
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Olivia Jung
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Jonathan Fielding
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Michael Ong
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