The City of Philadelphia has been planting grass and trees in vacant lots, and the results are extraordinary.

A research team measured depression symptoms 18 months before the “greening” and 18 months after and found a 41.5 percent drop for the people living within a quarter mile of a new green space. For people living below the poverty  line, symptoms decreased an incredible 68 percent. There was no change for people whose nearby vacant lots received no intervention.

Here’s what the study’s lead author said:

“Dilapidated and vacant spaces are factors that put residents at an increased risk of depression and stress, and may explain why socioeconomic disparities in mental illness persist. What these new data show us is that making structural changes, like greening lots, has a positive impact on the health of those living in these neighborhoods. And that it can be achieved in a cost-effective and scalable way – not only in Philadelphia but in other cities with the same harmful environmental surroundings.”

The city says the lots cost between $1,000 to $1,300 to “clean and green” and $150 a year to maintain. Gun violence also dropped 29 percent near the green spaces.

We’ve said it before: Nature is so good for mental health. I love that Philadelphia is doing this simple thing for their citizens and that they’re seeing such amazing results. I hope the idea will take root and spread!

Read more about the study here and more about the greening program here.

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