New report explores the change in use of green space following COVID-19 lockdown and initial easing of lockdown

Issued: Mon, 12 Oct 2020 16:05:00 BST

Published 12th October 2020

A report published today finds that pre-existing socio-economic inequalities in use of green and open spaces may have been made worse by the COVID-19 lockdown and restrictions.

The report, which was led by Rich Mitchell and Jon Olsen from the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit found that:

  • Use of green and open spaces was polarised during lockdown – some people increased their frequency of visits and time spent outside, but many made fewer or no visits;
  • The most marked reduction in time spent in green and open spaces was amongst older people;
  • Socio-economic inequalities in use of green and open spaces existing before lockdown – lockdown did not reduce these and may have made them worse;
  • For those that did make use of green and open spaces they reported that it has benefited their mental health.

The report was prepared for the Public Health Scotland Social and Systems Environment & Spaces Group which brings together stakeholders from national and local government, health boards, academia and third sector. The Group are bringing together evidence on how our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic are affecting our environment and spaces, how people interact with these spaces and how this impacts on people’s health and wellbeing, and using this to inform national and local responses to policy and practice.

Initial recommendations from the SSR Environment and Spaces Group based on this report are that national and local government, health boards and third sector organisations should:

  • Recognise that not everyone used outdoor spaces more as a result of lockdown. There were marked falls in use amongst some groups, most notably older people. These will lead to widening health inequalities if positive action is not taken;
  • Action is needed to redress the marked reduction in use by older people during lockdown;
  • Action is needed to redress the underlying socio-economic inequalities in access to, and use of, public and private open spaces;
  • Recognise that those who do use open spaces feel the benefit on their mental health and these spaces are an essential resource for community wellbeing, Action is needed to protect green and open spaces as an essential resource for community wellbeing, and they should be prioritised in any future fiscal squeeze.

Read the Official report from Social & System Recovery - Environment and Spaces Group.


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