Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Master of Landscape Architecture (MLA)


Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning

Committee Chair(s)

Keith M. Christensen


Keith M. Christensen


Scott C. Bates


Sean E. Michael


Activities involving natural environments have positive psychological impacts on participants. Both outdoor recreation and gardening have been shown to reduce feelings of depression. However, the effects of these activities on the depression levels of individuals with disabilities have not yet been studied. In order to better understand the relationship between these activities and depression among individuals with disabilities, two separate studies were conducted.

The first study seeks to better understand the relationship between outdoor recreation participation and depression among Montana residents with disabilities using publicly available Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data. It hypothesizes that depression would be negatively correlated with outdoor recreation participation and that individuals participating more frequently in outdoor recreation activities would have lower overall depression index scores. This study compares three outdoor recreation predictors (dichotomized participation, participation index score, and participation frequencies) to two depression dependents (dichotomized current major depression and raw depression index score). Results reveal that there is a negative relationship between outdoor recreation participation and depression, outdoor recreation participants had lower overall depression scores than non-participants, and lower depression scores were related to more frequent outdoor recreation participation. Respondents participating in outdoor recreation at least four times a week had the lowest mean depression score.

The second study, also using BRFSS data, sought to identify the relationship between gardening and depression among Utah residents with disabilities. This study hypothesized that participation in gardening activities would be negatively correlated to depression. In order to test this hypothesis, this study compared the mean depression scores of five different gardening categories: non-gardeners, past gardeners, non-current gardeners, lifetime gardeners, and current gardeners. It likewise compared gardening status with depression scores to identify a linear relationship. Results reveal that there is a negative linear relationship between gardening and depression. Current gardeners and lifetime gardeners had significantly lower overall depression scores than non-gardeners.




A portion of this thesis has been published in the Journal of Therapeutic Horticulture.