Objectives: Green space positively influences health and well-being; however, inequalities in use of green space are prevalent. Movement restrictions enforced due to the COVID-19 pandemic could have exacerbated existing inequalities regarding who visits green space. Therefore, this study aimed to explore how movement restrictions have changed the time spent visiting green space and experience of green space in the United Kingdom (UK) and how these differed by individual-level demographic characteristics. Design and outcome measures: A nationally representative cross-sectional survey administered through YouGov between 30 April and 1 May 2020. Data were collected on the time spent visiting green space and change in the experience of green space, including missing social interaction, increased physical activity and feeling greater mental health benefits in green space. Demographic information was collected on sex, age, ethnicity, social grade and dog ownership. Associations between specific outcome variables and predictors were assessed using logistic regression. Setting: UK, with population weights applied. Participants: 2252 adults aged 18 years and over. Results: Overall, 63% of respondents reported a decrease in time spent visiting green space following movement restrictions. Lower social grade respondents were less likely to visit green space before and after restrictions were enforced (OR: 0.35 (95% CI 0.24 to 0.51); OR: 0.77 (95% CI 0.63 to 0.95)). Female respondents were more likely than male respondents to agree that green space benefited their mental health more following restrictions (PP: 0.70 vs 0.59). Older (65+ years) respondents were less likely than middle-aged (25–64 years) respondents to have visited green space following the restrictions (OR: 0.79 (95% CI 0.63 to 0.98)). Conclusions: Inequalities in green space use were sustained, and possibly exacerbated, during movement restrictions. Our findings emphasise the importance of green spaces remaining open globally in any future ‘lockdowns’/pandemics. Further investigation is required to determine how visit patterns and experiences change through the different stages of the COVID-19 pandemic in the UK.


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Cite as

Burnett, H., Olsen, J., Nicholls, N. & Mitchell, R. 2021, 'Change in time spent visiting and experiences of green space following restrictions on movement during the COVID-19 pandemic: A nationally representative cross-sectional study of UK adults', BMJ Open, 11(3), article no: e044067. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2020-044067

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Last updated: 26 October 2022
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