Relationships between characteristics of urban green land cover and mental health in U.S. metropolitan areas

Wei Lun Tsai, Melissa R. McHale, Viniece Jennings, Oriol Marquet, J. Aaron Hipp, Yu Fai Leung, Myron F. Floyd*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

46 Citations (Scopus)


Urbanization increases risk for depression and other mental disorders. A growing body of research indicates the natural environment confers numerous psychological benefits including alleviation of mental distress. This study examined land cover types and landscape metrics in relation to mental health for 276 U.S. counties within metropolitan areas having a population of 1 million or more. County Health Rankings and Behavioral Risk and Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) provided a measure of mental health. The 2011 National Land Cover Database (NLCD) provided data on green land cover types, from which seven landscape metrics were generated to characterize landscape patterns. Spearman’s rho correlation and stepwise logistic regression models, respectively, were employed to examine bivariate and multivariate relationships. Models were adjusted for county population and housing density, region, race, and income to account for potential confounding. Overall, individual measures of landscape patterns showed stronger associations with mental health than percent total cover alone. Greater edge contrast was associated with 3.81% lower odds of Frequent Mental Distress (FMD) (Adjusted Odd’s Ratio (AOR) = 0.9619, 95% CI = 0.9371, 0.9860). Shrubland cohesion was associated with greater odds of FMD (AOR = 1.0751, 95% CI = 1.0196, 1.1379). In addition, distance between shrubland cover was associated with greater odds of FMD (AOR = 1.0027, 95% CI = 1.0016, 1.0041). Although effect sizes were small, findings suggest different types of landscape characteristics may have different roles in improving mental health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number340
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 14 Feb 2018


  • Green land cover
  • Landscape
  • Urban forests
  • Urbanization


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