Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Community Development and Applied Economics

First Advisor

Trisha R. Shrum


Green spaces are well-known for positively affecting mental health, particularly during stressful periods like the COVID-19 Pandemic. This global Pandemic significantly changed people's daily lives and social interactions, impacting their mental and physical well-being. This study explores how people's connection with green spaces changed during the height of the Pandemic and whether this connection positively or negatively affected their mental health and social exposure. To accomplish this, a survey was conducted between October 21, 2020, and November 8, 2020, involving 629 participants. This thesis investigates several aspects, including whether proximity to green spaces is linked to better self-reported mental health during the Pandemic, whether individuals who utilized green spaces experienced better mental health compared to those who did not, if access to green spaces became more crucial for well-being during the Pandemic, whether proximity or access to green spaces led to reduced voluntary social exposure, and if individuals with backyards, porches, patios, or balconies had lower social exposure.

The results indicate that individuals who live closer to green spaces tend to have higher levels of self-reported mental health. Results also supported the hypothesis that closer proximity to green spaces correlated significantly with lower levels of voluntary social exposure but no correlation with individuals with backyards, porches, patios, or balconies. The data showed a median decrease in the use of green spaces during the Pandemic, with an average of 11% of people increasing their use and 22% decreasing their use of green spaces relative to the time before the Pandemic. The results revealed no correlation between actual visits to green spaces during the last thirty days and mental health, but individuals who accessed green spaces during the last month did correlate significantly with higher levels of voluntary social exposure. Participants stated how important green spaces were to mental health and wellness during the Pandemic. We found that individuals found green spaces significantly less important for all categories (e.g., physical exercise, social interaction, recreation, relaxation, stress or anxiety relief, management of depression, management of anxiety disorder, spiritual practice, feeling connected with nature, happiness, educational purposes, and children's playtime) than before the Pandemic. Overall, the individuals who found green spaces more important to them during the Pandemic reported significantly worse self-reported mental health.

The findings provide further evidence of mental health benefits associated with green space exposure during the COVID-19 Pandemic, even after adjustment for sociodemographic and pandemic-related variables. While using green spaces might lead to more social interactions during the Pandemic and higher voluntary social exposure, our results show that they could still serve as a mental health resource, especially for those experiencing distress. More research should be completed on risk management behavior, mental health, and accessing green spaces. Extending this type of research could prove invaluable in planning for infectious disease outbreaks.



Number of Pages

105 p.

Available for download on Wednesday, October 23, 2024