Excessive amounts of neighbourhood vacant land and abandoned structures can significantly lower community and outsider perceptions, and ultimately impact the mental health conditions of inhabitants. While depopulation, economic conditions and land use dynamics can all play a role in the amount of neighbourhood-scaled vacancies and structural abandonment, natural disaster events such as flooding can also exacerbate the ratio of vacant to non-vacant properties in cities and neighbourhoods through resultant building damage and resident relocations. Examinations on post-disaster mental health are limited, and even less is known about the extent of vacant and abandoned properties on mental health, especially within the disaster recovery context. Using survey responses (n=257) from Houston, TX, USA, from Hurricane Harvey stricken neighbourhoods, this study quantitatively examines how vacancy and abandonment are associated with mental health in disaster-effected communities. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was measured using the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 and health-related quality of life was measured using the Health-Related Quality of Life (HRQOL) scale. Vacancy rates and perceived vacancy were used to predict PTSD and HRQOL in generalised mixed linear models while adjusting for covariates. Findings indicate significant relationships between higher neighbourhood vacancy and elevated risks of PTSD and impaired HRQOL. Further, while the average rate of abandonment in Houston stayed relatively flat, it increased considerably in hurricane impacted communities until two years after Harvey. The outcomes of this study suggest a link between hazard mitigation-recovery and urban regeneration planning to prevent neighbourhood deterioration and improve mental health outcomes after disaster events.
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© Urban Studies Journal Limited 2022.
- built environment
- mental health