An interesting look at the connection between red-lining and mental health.
In many cities, a map of urban tree cover reflects the geography of race and income…where 97% of residents are African American. This holds true across Baltimore, which still bears the scars of redlining, policies that denied mortgages and other financial services to entire communities of color. Black residents were essentially barred from purchasing homes in so-called greenlined neighborhoods, forced instead to choose among inner-city redlined areas.
Today, according to the US Forest Service, previously redlined areas have an average of 23% tree cover, while once-greenlined neighborhoods, living up to their old label, have an average of 43% tree cover. When Owens moved to Oliver, only about 10% of the neighborhood was tree-covered, according to Justin Bowers, associate director of the Baltimore Tree Trust, an organization that works to restore the city’s urban canopy. In a dense neighborhood without lawns, this meant a stark lack of green space.
The adverse effects of treeless neighborhoods are well-known and many. Bowers says that summer days in East Baltimore neighborhoods can be four to 16 degrees hotter than other parts of the city. In addition to heat-related illnesses, residents who lack tree cover consume more energy to stay cool, endure poorer air quality and – like Owens – report diminished mental health, he explains.
Trees have long been suspected to have a positive effect on city-dwellers’ overall happiness. But for many years, the correlation between urban trees and mental health remained difficult to prove.
Researchers in Germany have now provided concrete evidence of the link between trees and mental health, by studying the correlation between prescription antidepressants and tree cover across a range of neighborhoods.
And the group working to remedy the inequity: