A report published today by the MRC on behalf of the Social Systems Recovery (SSR) – Environments and Spaces Group, which is hosted by Public Health Scotland (PHS), describes how COVID-19 continues to influence use of green and open space. The report covers the reported benefit of green and open space for mental and physical health following the first COVID-19 lockdown and ongoing restrictions and recommends actions to support future decision making. It includes detail of how this varies by age, sex, socio-economic status and ethnicity.

It found inequalities in visiting green and open space; 71% of people categorised as high socio-economic status visited in the previous four weeks compared to just 53% of people categorised as low socio-economic status. For those who reported use of green and open space, 81% visited on one or more occasions in the previous week. The frequency of visits varied considerably by individual demographic group; older people (55+) visited green and open space most frequently. People aged 18 to 24 years, women and BAME people visited green and open space less frequently. Nine in 10 people agreed that being in green and open spaces benefitted their mental health.

Ali Macdonald, Organisational Lead for Healthy Active Environments at PHS said:

“The impact of COVID-19 has demonstrated clearly the benefits of being outdoors in greenspace for people’s mental and physical health. However not everyone has felt these benefits equally. Initiatives that promote and improve access to green and open spaces, particularly for those who do not have their own garden or green space nearby are important. To do this will involve action from various stakeholders, working together. Such action would include provision of gardens for all new housing; retro-fitting or enhancing private green spaces in established neighbourhoods; and also ensuring access to good quality community parks and green spaces within local neighbourhoods.

“One way to achieve this is through the re-purposing and redevelopment of vacant and derelict land. Reallocating road space is also important to create both greener active travel routes and additional community green space.

“Increasing the development of areas that encourage children to play outside will also enable both children and adults living nearby to benefit from attractive and healthy green spaces on their doorstep".

View the S&SR Environment and Spaces Group Report.

Last updated: 06 October 2022