Green spaces have been found to promote physical activity, social contact, and mental wellbeing, however, there are inequalities in the use and experience of green spaces. The United Kingdom’s (UK) response to the COVID-19 pandemic imposed very substantial changes on its citizens’ lives which could plausibly affect their willingness to visit green spaces. These sudden lifestyle changes severely affected the population’s mental health, leading to a greater dependency on the positive influence of nature in reducing stress and improving mood. Whilst early cross-sectional evidence suggested an increased orientation to nature and visits to green spaces as a response to COVID-19 ‘lockdowns’, there is little longitudinal evidence about how sustained and equal these changes may have been. This study explored green space visits, barriers to visiting, and the inequalities of both of those over an entire year of the pandemic in the UK. Three waves of nationally representative cross-sectional surveys were administered by YouGov in April 2020, November 2020, and April 2021 (N = 6713). Data included reported visits to green spaces and, for those with no or infrequent visiting, perceived barriers including those plausibly related to the risk of COVID-19. Green space visits increased over the year as lockdown restrictions were relaxed; 68% of respondents reported green space visits in April 2021, compared with 49% in April 2020. However, the socio-economic inequalities in use were sustained and increased. COVID-19 related barriers fell over time, but there were indications of increased interest in green spaces among younger people. Further action is required to ensure that the positive impacts of green spaces are experienced equally, and that good quality green space is accessible to all.


This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

Cite as

Burnett, H., Olsen, J. & Mitchell, R. 2022, 'Green space visits and barriers to visiting during the Covid-19 pandemic: a three-wave nationally representative cross-sectional study of UK adults', Land, 11(4), article no: 503. https://doi.org/10.3390/land11040503

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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