Greenspace exposure and COVID-19 mortality in the United States: January–July 2020

Helen Russette, Jon Graham, Zachary Holden, Erin O. Semmens, Elizabeth Williams, Erin L. Landguth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Background: Mortality from the novel coronavirus disease-2019 (COVID-19) continues to rise across the United States. Evidence is emerging that environmental factors may contribute to susceptibility to disease and mortality. Greenspace exposure promotes enhanced immunity and may protect against risk of mortality among those with COVID-19. Objectives: Our objective was to determine if high county level greenspace exposure is associated with reduced risk of COVID-19 mortality. Methods: Greenspace exposure was characterized in 3049 counties across the conterminous United States using Leaf Area Index (LAI) deciles that were derived from satellite imagery via Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer from 2011 to 2015. COVID-19 mortality data were obtained from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. We used a generalized linear mixed model to evaluate the association between county level LAI and COVID-19 mortality rate in analyses adjusted for 2015–2019 county level average total county population, older population, race, overcrowding in home, Medicaid, education, and physical inactivity. Results: A dose-response association was found between greenness and reduced risk of COVID-19 mortality. COVID-19 mortality was negatively associated with LAI deciles 8 [MRR = 0.82 (95% CI: 0.72, 0.93)], 9 [MRR = 0.78 (95% CI: 0.68, 0.89)], and 10 [MRR = 0.59 (95% CI: 0.50, 0.69)]. Aside from LAI decile 5, no associations were found between the remaining LAI deciles and COVID-19 mortality. Increasing prevalence of counties with older age residents, low education attainment, Native Americans, Black Americans, and housing overcrowding were significantly associated with increased risk of COVID-19 mortality, whereas Medicaid prevalence was associated with a reduced risk. Discussion: Counties with a higher amount of greenspace may be at a reduced risk of experiencing mortality due to COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Article number111195
JournalEnvironmental Research
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • LAI
  • Respiratory health
  • SARS-CoV-2


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