Online Program

Associations between Depression and Building Heights, Street Widths, and Street Trees in the Nurses' Health Studies

Monday, November 2, 2015

Morteza Asgarzadeh, PhD, Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health, Framingham, MA
Peter James, MHS, ScD, Department of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA
Francine Laden, ScD, Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Olivia Okereke, Channing Laboratory, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Harvard University, Boston, MA
Background. High-rise buildings are suggested to impose psychological pressure (i.e. oppressiveness) in dense urban environments. In a pilot study, we explored whether depression outcomes varied by exposure to tall buildings, and examined the possibility of effect-measure modification by street trees.

Methods. We selected respondents to the 2008 Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) questionnaire (n=1625), and respondents to the 2009 Nurses’ Health Study II (NHSII) questionnaire (n = 2957) who lived in New York City. We created measures of building heights (maximum, standard deviation, average, total volume and total building number), number of trees, and average street-widths within 100m and 40m radial buffers of each participant’s address using Geographic Information Systems. In NHS, we conducted multivariable linear regression based on the Geriatric Depression Score (GDS), and logistic regression examining the outcomes of doctor-diagnosed depression, antidepressant use, or a GDS score of ≥6. In NHSII, we conducted logistic regression for doctor-diagnosed depression and antidepressant use. We also ran stratified analyses by number of trees within each buffer.

Findings. Over 8% reported doctor-diagnosed depression and 10% reported antidepressant use in the NHS sample, while 16% reported doctor-diagnosed depression and 16% reported antidepressant use among NHSII participants. All associations between environmental measures and depression were non-significant, and we did not observe a statistically significant linear trend for any environmental measure. There was no evidence of effect modification by street trees.

Conclusions. Although the study sample was small, we observed no relationship between depression and building heights, street-width, or street trees in the proximity of participants’ residential addresses.


Built environment; Depression; Building height; Trees; Street width 

Learning Areas:

Environmental health sciences
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Discuss the associations between depression and building heights, street widths, and street trees in the Nurses’ Health Studies.

Keyword(s): Environmental Health, Community Health Assessment

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have been the post-doctoral research fellow at Harvard T.H.Chan School of Public Health. In my research I focus on the impact of the built environment on health. Among my scientific interests has been identifying new pathways we are impacted by our surrounding environment that has not been studied before.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.