Residential green space and mental health-related prescription medication sales: An ecological study in Belgium

Raf Aerts, Naomi Vanlessen, Sebastien Dujardin, Benoit Nemery, An Van Nieuwenhuyse, Mariska Bauwelinck, Lidia Casas, Claire Demoury, Michelle Plusquin, Tim S. Nawrot

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Residential green space has been associated with mental health benefits, but how such associations vary with green space types is insufficiently known. Objective: We aimed to investigate associations between types and quantities of green space and sales of mood disorder medication in Belgium. Methods: We used aggregated sales data of psycholeptics and psychoanaleptics prescribed to adults from 2006 to 2014. Generalized mixed effects models were used to investigate associations between relative covers of woodland, low-green, grassland, and garden, and average annual medication sales. Models were adjusted for socio-economic background variables, urban-rural differences, and administrative region, and included random effects of latitude and longitude. Results: Urban census tracts were associated with 9–10% higher medication sales. In nationwide models, a 10% increase in relative cover of woodland, garden, and grass was associated with a 1–2% decrease in medication sales. The same association was found for low green but only for men. In stratified models, a 10% increase in relative cover of any green space type in urban census tracts was associated with a decrease of medication sales by 1–3%. In rural census tracts, no protective associations between green space and mood disorder medication sales were observed, with the exception of relative woodland cover for women (−1%), and low green was associated with higher medication sales (+6–7%). Conclusions: Taken together, these results suggest that living in green environments may be beneficial for adult mental health. Woodland exposure seemed the most beneficial, but the amount of green space was more important than the type. Results underline the importance of conserving green space in our living environment, for the conservation of biodiversity and for human health.

Original languageEnglish
Article number113056
JournalEnvironmental Research
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2022


  • Environmental epidemiology
  • Medication sales
  • Mental health
  • Mood disorders
  • Residential green space


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