Third report looking at the impact of COVID-19 on use of greenspace has shown there were sharp inequalities in visiting green and open space in spring 2021, preventing some people from experiencing the mental health benefits associated with use of outdoor space. 

Over two thirds of adults (67%) had visited a green or open space during the previous four weeks. However, there are sharp inequalities in visiting green and open space: 73% of those classified as high socio-economic status visited in the previous four weeks, compared to just 59% of those classified as low socio-economic status.

This is the third report by MRC on behalf of the Public Health Scotland (PHS) Social and Systems Recovery (SSR) Environment and Spaces Group - the group looking at the impact of COVID-19 on use of greenspace. This inequality in visits to green and open space, first noted in April 2020 during lockdown, has continued despite a marked increase in number of visits since April 2020. The increase in visits has been sustained since the second report from November 2020. However there have been no further gains despite improved weather and the vaccination programme roll-out.

Ali Macdonald, Organisational Lead for Healthy, Active Environments at Public Health Scotland said:

“Almost nine out of ten of the people (89%) who participated in the research told us that being in green and open spaces benefitted their mental health. It is vital that we consider how we provide neighbourhood greenspace, as different approaches may have different impacts on health and wellbeing and inequality. These approaches might include, for example, new parks and parklets, re-purposing of derelict and under-used land, green travel corridors and greening streets initiatives. However hand-in-hand with this, interventions within communities themselves and through local authorities and the NHS, are needed to ensure those who don’t currently visit local green spaces can experience their mental and physical health benefits.

This report contains valuable and useful information for those involved in decision making about developments at a local level and how greenspace is incorporated into improving local environments.”

The report has been produced for use by Government, Local Authorities, the NHS, the third sector and other professionals involved in environment and planning policy implementation at a national and local level and service providers in both the public and private sector. It covers:

  • How COVID-19 continues to influence use of green and open space, including variation by age, sex, socio-economic status and ethnicity.
  • The reported benefit of green and open space for mental and physical health following the first COVID-19 lockdown and varying restrictions thereafter.
  • Recommendation for actions to support future decision making, with the focus on priorities for pandemic recovery.

Read the full report

The SSR - Environment and Spaces Group is hosted by PHS and involves partners from national and local government, the NHS, the third sector and academia. The group was established to bring together evidence on how our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic have affected our environment and spaces and how people interact within these, articulate how this might impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and use this to inform national and local policy and practice responses. 

Information on previous reports can be found in our news articles How have covid-19 restrictions changed our use of greenspace? and Covid-19 restrictions sustain inequalities in greenspace use.

Greenspace is our natural health service.

greenspace scotland is working with NHS Lothian, Edinburgh & Lothians Health Foundation and a wide range of partners and stakeholders on the development and delivery of the Greenspace and Health Strategic Framework for Edinburgh & Lothians. This was published on 28 June 2019 and we believe it is the first Scottish health board-led Green Health Strategy. Read more about greenspace and health

Better outside

At greenspace scotland we’ve always talked about parks and greenspace as our natural health service, our children’s outdoor classrooms, our community and leisure centres without a roof. Now we need them more than ever. As we continue to adapt to living with covid-19, Better outside – using our spaces more provides examples, ideas, inspiration and resources for taking indoor activities outside.