In May 2020, Public Health Scotland established the Social and Systems Recovery Environment and Spaces Group to bring together evidence on how our responses to the COVID-19 pandemic affected our environment and spaces, and how people used these spaces, to articulate how this might impact on people’s health and wellbeing, and to use this to inform responses to policy and practice.

The Group is chaired by greenspace scotland’s Chief Executive, Julie Procter, and supported by a Data and Evidence Sub-Group, convened by Professor Rich Mitchell. The Group has published several reports on greenspace use during the pandemic and a Summary Report.

The value of bringing together a wide range of stakeholders to focus on the role of environment and spaces for public health has been recognised and the group continues as the Environment and Spaces for Public Health Partnership Group.

Last week [25 October 2022] Public Health Scotland, on behalf of the group, published a report about the use of private and public greenspace by housing tenure during the COVID-19 pandemic. The paper summarises findings from two national surveys delivered at two different stages during the COVID-19 pandemic exploring differential access to and use of private and public greenspace during the pandemic through housing tenure.

Findings show that private and social housing tenants are less likely to have outdoor space at home and also less likely to use public greenspace.

Speaking on the publication of the report, Pamela Smith, Head of Service at Public Health Scotland said:

"There is a strong and growing body of evidence that spending time outside has many benefits for our physical health and mental wellbeing. We also know that not everyone has easy access to good quality greenspace and the availability, quality and use of greenspace is unequal.
"This review provides good evidence on the action required to increase provision and use of high quality greenspace and outdoor space to reduce inequalities. Planning and housing policy implementation should consider both the contribution of private and public greenspace to health and providing access to gardens and local high-quality greenspace for new and existing housing."

The report recommends that:

  • Further research is needed to understand the minimum outdoor space that is needed at home, and the differing use of private and public greenspaces by various groups of people

  • Cross-sector action is needed to ensure gardens or local high-quality greenspace is provided for new and existing housing, and to increase use of these spaces to reduce inequalities

Read PHS news story | Download full report