Date of Award

January 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Danya E. Keene

Second Advisor

Gregg Gonsalves


Access to high-quality residential greenspace is associated with improved long-term health, particularly mental health. However, many interventions to promote “greening” or increased greenspace in urban areas have been shown through numerous qualitative studies to exacerbate environmental and health inequities, primarily through green gentrification. Our objective was to quantify the association between greenspace and mental distress in the U.S. as well as evaluate whether the association between greenspace and mental distress is modified by housing tenure. We hypothesized that increased greenspace was associated with reduced mental distress, and that this effect was more protective among homeowners than non-homeowners. Mental distress and homeowner status were defined using 2012-2019 CDC Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) datasets. Meanwhile, exposure to greenspace was measured using annual normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) from 2007-2019 NASA remote sensing datasets, averaged over metropolitan or micropolitan statistical areas (MMSAs). We used multivariable logistic regression with MMSA fixed effects to model the association between MMSA-level average greenspace and mental distress with 0-4 lag years and interaction between greenspace and homeowner status. In our fully adjusted model, we found that a 0.1 increase in NDVI 2 years prior was associated with an odds of mental distress increased by a factor of 1.32 (95% CI: 1.20, 1.44). We also found that the odds of mental distress among homeowners was 0.59 (0.52, 0.68) times the odds of mental distress among non-homeowners, and that the odds ratio associated with a 0.1 increase in NDVI 1 year prior was lower among homeowners than among non-homeowners. Our findings suggest that greening may disproportionately harm residents made vulnerable to gentrification. Further research should investigate the causal effects of greening on gentrification and health, as well as how tenant protections and other structural policy reforms may influence greening’s health equity impacts.


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 05/07/2026