Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


First Advisor

Amon Emeka

Second Advisor

Andrew Lindner


Does exposure to natural environments improve mental health? Past research shows benefits from spending time in green spaces, including improved well-being, as well as better mental and physical health (van den Berg et al. 2010; Atuoye et al. 2019; Bingley 2013). However, these studies focus on spending time in parks, gardens, or other natural environments and build their cases around the advantageous effects resulting from actual time spent in such places (Fan, Das, and Chen 2011; Litt et al. 2015; van den Berg et al. 2010). This study focuses instead on whether exposure to, regardless of time spent in green spaces, has similar effects. Using attention restoration theory and the theory of therapeutic landscapes, I hypothesize that the more one agrees that they have access to or views of natural environments, the fewer days of poor mental health they will have. This study uses data from the 2018 General Social Survey, with a restricted sample of only those who are employed or temporarily not working (N = 649). After controlling for race, family income, full-time employment status, size of place, and dwelling type, results show no significant relationship between access to or views of natural environments and days of poor mental health. However, multivariate results show that controlling for all other factors, white individuals had more days of poor mental health, and those who work full-time, live in single-family detached homes, or have higher family incomes had fewer days of poor mental health. While the results do not support the proposed hypotheses, the bivariate correlations begin to indicate which populations have access to green spaces, as well as which may be more likely to experience poor mental health based on demographic characteristics.