Nature Supports Health and Wellbeing during a Pandemic

March 1, 2021

New study shows that in the last year people spent more time in nature, visited nature more often for a health and wellbeing benefit, and felt that nature helped them cope during the 2020 pandemic.

A brand new study by a group of international researchers shows that in the last year people had significantly changed their patterns of visiting nature as a result of the covid-19 pandemic. They spent more time in nature and visited nature more often during the 2020 pandemic, they also visited nature for a health and wellbeing benefit, and felt that nature helped them cope.

The paper – titled, “Nature’s Role in Supporting Health during the covid-19 Pandemic: A Geospatial and Socioecological Study”, revised and published in the “International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health” – points out that “the need for a mutually-advantageous relationship between humans and the wider biotic community has never been more important.”

Authors – from the U.S.A, Europe and Australia – write: “The covid-19 pandemic has brought about unprecedented changes to human lifestyles across the world. The virus and associated social restriction measures have been linked to an increase in mental health conditions. A considerable body of evidence shows that spending time in and engaging with nature can improve human health and wellbeing. Our study explores nature’s role in supporting health during the covid-19 pandemic.”

“This study provides novel insights into the value of natural environments, particularly in response to an infectious disease pandemic. People need quality natural environments in their neighbourhoods to maintain favourable health and wellbeing. … We collected data (n = 1184) on people’s patterns of nature exposure, associated health and wellbeing responses, and potential socioecological drivers such as relative deprivation, access to greenspaces, and land-cover greenness.”

“As a result of the covid-19 pandemic, over 90% of respondents reportedly increased the amount of time they spent in natural environments such as woodlands, parks, and gardens. Forty-eight percent of respondents reportedly spent more time in their private gardens. Fourteen percent of respondents reportedly spent more time in woodlands, and 11% spent more time in urban parks. Over 80% of all participants reported that they were likely to spend more time in nature once the covid-19 pandemic is over.”

“Of the respondents whose duration in nature increased during the pandemic, a significantly greater proportion showed decreased perceived stress. Eighty-four percent of respondents agreed that spending time in nature helped them cope with the covid-19 pandemic, and 56% of these “strongly agreed”. When comparing the responses for male and female we found a significant difference in the strength of respondents’ agreement. The median female score was 7 (strongly agree), while the median male score was 6 (agree).”

“There were also differences in the perceived ways in which nature helped respondents cope with covid-19. The most popular response was that nature provided a place to exercise, followed by helping to reduce stress and providing a calm space to think.”

“Greater land-cover greenness within a 250 m radius around a respondent’s postcode was important in predicting higher levels of mental wellbeing. There were significantly more food-growing allotments within 100 and 250 m around respondents with high mental wellbeing scores. This study provides an important contribution towards understanding how populations respond to infectious disease pandemics. It also further highlights the importance of conserving, restoring and designingnature-centric environments for human health and wellbeing.

Authors conclude: “The need for a mutually-advantageous relationship between humans and the wider biotic community has never been more important. We must conserve, restore and design nature-centric environments to maintain resilient societies and promote planetary health.

Full Study “Nature’s Role in Supporting Health during the covid-19 Pandemic: A Geospatial and Socioecological Study”