Natural neighbourhood environments and the emotional health of urban New Zealand adolescents

Mavoa, Suzanne; Lucassen, Mathijs; Denny, Simon; Utter, Jennifer; Clark, Terryann and Smith, Melody (2019). Natural neighbourhood environments and the emotional health of urban New Zealand adolescents. Landscape and Urban Planning, 191, article no. 103638.



Natural environments – green spaces, blue spaces (such as lakes, rivers and beaches), and biodiversity –have potential health benefits. However, there is lack of knowledge about the relationships between these environments and adolescent emotional health. Our study assessed the relationship between the natural environments of residential neighbourhoods and the emotional health of adolescents living in urban New Zealand. Data from 4575 adolescents were drawn from the 2012 wave of the Youth2000 survey series. Emotional health was assessed using the World Health Organization-5 Well-being Index and depressive symptoms were measured using the Reynolds Adolescent Depression Scale-short form. Measures of greenness, vegetation diversity, blue spaces, and a composite available nature index were calculated for participant residential neighbourhoods (within 400 meters, 800 meters, and 1600 meters of the residential address). Cross-classified multilevel linear models were used to assess relationships between each natural environment exposure and each emotional health outcome, and adjusted for sex, age, ethnicity, household deprivation, and neighbourhood deprivation. Results showed significant relationships between reduced depressive symptoms and increased mean greenness, presence of native vegetation, and having a higher nature availability index. Unexpectedly, greater variability in greenness was associated with reduced wellbeing. Our study provides novel evidence of the importance of natural environments for the emotional health of adolescents, adding to mounting evidence that it is important to protect, rehabilitate and plan for natural spaces in urban areas.

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