Article Text

Original research
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
  1. Hannah Burnett,
  2. Jonathan R Olsen,
  3. Natalie Nicholls,
  4. Richard Mitchell
  1. MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  1. Correspondence to Hannah Burnett; h.burnett.1{at}


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.

  • mental health
  • COVID-19
  • public health

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  • Contributors HB, JRO and RM designed the study and survey; HB conducted data analysis, which was reviewed by NN; HB wrote the first draft of the paper; all authors contributed to interpreting the results and revising the draft. The corresponding author attests that all listed authors meet authorship criteria and that no others meeting the criteria have been omitted.

  • Funding All authors are part of the Places and Health Programme at the MRC/CSO (Medical Research Council/Chief Scientist Office) Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, supported by the Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12017/10) and the Chief Scientist Office (SPHSU10). HB is also funded by a Medical Research Council and University of Glasgow College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences PhD studentship (MC_ST_U18004).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data are available in a public, open access repository. We have made our research dataset publicly available (Datacite DOI: 10.5525/gla.researchdata.1038 - embargoed until 31 October 2023).

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.