Third Social Systems Recovery Report (SSR) Environment and Spaces Group Report published today

Published 19th August 2021

A new report published today describes green and open space use in Scotland in the Spring of 2021.

The report, which was led by Rich Mitchell and Jon Olsen, found that:

  • During April 2021, over two thirds of adults reported that they had visited a green or open space in the previous 4 weeks. This was an increase from May 2020 during national lockdown restrictions.
  • No differences were found in the number of visits to green or open space, frequency of visits or benefits to mental health by COVID-19 vaccination status, including the time since vaccine or number of doses.
  • Comparing data from Wave 1 there was a marked increase in number of visits to green and open space, frequency of these visits and reported mental health benefits of being in these spaces.
  • There remain sharp inequalities in visiting green and open space.
  • For those who reported use of green and open space in the previous 4 weeks, 78% visited a green or open space on one or more occasions in the previous week. The frequency of visits varied considerably by individual demographic group.
  • 9 in 10 individuals agreed that being in green and open spaces benefitted their mental health.
  • For those who did not visit green or open spaces, using a space at home, being too busy and poor weather were the most frequently reported reasons.

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.

The report identifies areas that require priority action by the Scottish Government, Local Authorities, the NHS and the third sector to support pandemic recovery. These include:

  • Scotland’s green and open spaces must be physically and fiscally protected to ensure the increase in use of green space and its associated population health and wellbeing benefits are sustained and maximised.
  • Increasing provision and use of high quality green and open spaces must remain a priority across all sectors to maximise and equalise the health benefits these spaces can provide.
  • Interventions to increase use of green and open space should ensure a focus on disadvantaged groups.
  • The reported mental health benefits of spending time in green and open space are striking, reinforcing the need to ensure that all groups are able to benefit.
  • Public mental health policy should explicitly include the benefits of green and open spaces for mental wellbeing.
  • Ensure planning and housing policy acknowledge the different contributions of private and public greenspace and that new and existing housing provides access to gardens and green space.

Read the COVID-19 Green and Open Space Use in Spring 2021 report.


First published: 19 August 2021

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