Coping with post-hurricane mental distress: The role of neighborhood green space. Academic Article uri icon


  • BACKGROUND: Although increases in the prevalence of mental distress have been reported after natural disasters, less is known about the role the environment may play in mitigating posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in hurricane-impacted communities. AIM: This study aims to investigate the extent to which concentration and perceived quality of neighborhood greenness are associated with lower levels of PTSD, along with potential mechanisms through which these effects occur. METHODS: We conducted a cross-sectional survey of individuals (N=272) from 30 Houston neighborhoods that were affected during Hurricane Harvey. Perceived quality of neighborhood green space was measured using a scale adapted from the Neighborhood Open Space (NOS) scale, and concentration of greenness was measured objectively using the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI). Probable PTSD was measured using the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5), and hurricane-related distress using the Impact of Event Scale (IES-R). Generalized linear mixed models were used to fit individual models. Based on the results, structural equation models were employed to test direct and indirect pathways simultaneously. Models were adjusted for neighborhood- and individual-level confounders. RESULTS: Greater perceived quality of neighborhood green space was significantly associated with lower likelihoods of probable PTSD and hurricane-related distress. The effects of perceived green space quality on hurricane-related distress were mediated by higher levels of emotional resilience. Social cohesion, although significantly correlated with PTSD and distress, did not mediate the effect of perceived green space quality on either. Neighborhood NDVI was significantly associated with hurricane-related distress, but not with PTSD. CONCLUSION: We conclude that living in neighborhoods with greater perceived quality of green space was associated with lower levels of post-hurricane distress, with mediation especially through the emotional resilience pathway. These findings suggest that in disaster recovery policy frameworks, more attention should be paid to the benefits of high-quality neighborhood green infrastructure.

published proceedings

  • Soc Sci Med

author list (cited authors)

  • Li, D., Newman, G., Zhang, T., Zhu, R., & Horney, J.

citation count

  • 3

complete list of authors

  • Li, Dongying||Newman, Galen||Zhang, Tiantian||Zhu, Rui||Horney, Jennifer

publication date

  • July 2021