Proximity to public green spaces and depressive symptoms among South African residents: a population-based study

Type Journal Article - BMC Public Health
Title Proximity to public green spaces and depressive symptoms among South African residents: a population-based study
Volume 24
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2024
Exposure to green spaces has been suggested to improve mental health and may reduce the risk of depression. However, there is generally limited evidence on the association between green spaces and depression originating from low-and middle-income countries and Africa in particular. Here, we investigate the association between proximity to public green spaces and depressive symptoms among residents of Gauteng Province, South Africa. We used data from the 2017/2018 Gauteng quality of life survey. We included all individuals aged 18 years or older residing in the nine municipalities of Gauteng Province that completed the survey (n?=?24,341). Depressive symptoms were assessed using the Patient Health Questionnaire-2. Proximity to public green spaces was defined as self-reported walking time (either less or greater than 15 min) from individuals’ homes to the nearest public green space. To assess the association between access to public green spaces and depressive symptoms, we used mixed-effects models, adjusted for age, sex, population group (African, Indian/Asian, Coloured (mixed race), and White), educational attainment, and municipality. We additionally performed stratified analyses by age, sex, educational attainment, and population group to evaluate whether associations differed within subgroups. Associations are expressed as prevalence ratios (PR) and their 95 percent confidence intervals (95 percent CI). We observed a 6 percent (PR?=?0.94, 95 percent CI?=?0.92–0.96) prevalence reduction in depressive symptoms for individuals who reported that the nearest public green space was less than 15 min from their homes as compared to those who reported?>?15 min. After stratification, this inverse association was stronger among females, individuals aged 35–59 years, those with higher levels of educational attainment, and Coloured individuals as compared to their counterparts. Our findings suggest that public green spaces close to residential homes may be associated with a reduction in the occurrence of depressive symptoms among urban populations in resource-constrained settings like South Africa.

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