Study Shows Pandemic Increased Time Spent in Nature
New Research Uncovers Important Links Between Nature and Mental Health
TORONTO, November 25, 2021—Over a one-year period, approximately 3.7 million people travelled to a Greenbelt destination to engage in a nature-based activity, according to a new report released by Greenbelt Foundation. The Greenbelt Value of Nature Survey for Recreation in the Greater Golden Horseshoe examines the way in which people connected with nature and the impacts of COVID-19 on nature-based activities between July 2020 and August 2021.
The study further emphasizes that with a growing population and inequities in current access a proactive regional approach to increasing and improving available greenspaces is required."
The purpose of this study, which builds on the findings from the 2012 Canadian Nature Survey, was to collect in-depth data from residents of the Greater Golden Horseshoe region (GGH) about their interactions with nature. The study further emphasizes that with a growing population and inequities in current access a proactive regional approach to increasing and improving available greenspaces is required.
In a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, engagement with nature was stronger than ever with 85 per cent of adults indicating they had participated in a nature-based activity. Adults in the Greater Golden Horseshoe also spent 50 per cent more time than usual participating in walking or hiking, 39 per cent more time cycling, and 35 per cent more time bird watching. The average number of day trips for participants was nine day trips to a Greenbelt destination during the study period.
Survey participants drew important links to mental health and well-being, with 60 per cent saying they engage in nature-based activities to relieve stress, while 58 per cent noted an improvement in mental health, and 55 per cent indicated that nature-based activities cleared their minds.
“The pandemic further highlighted the critical importance of access to nature and greenspace for the physical and mental health of people in near-urban areas,” says Edward McDonnell, CEO, Greenbelt Foundation. “We are so fortunate to have two million acres of Greenbelt adjacent to Canada’s most populous urban area and research such as this reminds us how important it is to protect and invest in it.”
In addition to boosting mental health, the economic impacts of nature-based activities cannot be understated. Greater Golden Horseshoe residents spent over $6.5 billion participating in nature-based activities over this one-year period, on items such as equipment, fees, and supplies; food and accommodation; and transportation.
“The majority of study participants indicated that it is important for them to live in areas with good access to nature,” says Thomas Bowers, Director of Research and Policy, Greenbelt Foundation. “However, access to nature is not equal. Many responded that their access to nature was not as good as they wished it to be. We need a regional, systematic approach to address that gap.”
The most common barriers beyond COVID-19 that keep people from experiencing nature-based activities include lack of time, locations being too crowded, and not knowing where to go. As the region’s population grows, the provision and management of natural spaces become increasingly important.
The Greenbelt Foundation’s website has resources such as the Greenbelt Explore Page to help people find the best options for hiking and cycling routes, food and farming discovery routes, and many more Greenbelt adventures. Research into the state of large parks and near-urban nature in the Greater Golden Horseshoe can also be found on Greenbelt Foundation’s website. These reports are entitled State of Large Parks in Ontario's Golden Horseshoe and Near-Urban Nature Network: A Solution to Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss.
To read a Backgrounder with additional details, please click HERE.
About Greenbelt Foundation:
Greenbelt Foundation is a charitable organization, solely dedicated to ensuring the Greenbelt remains permanent, protected and prosperous. We make the right investments in its interconnected natural, agricultural, and economic systems, to ensure a working, thriving Greenbelt for all. Ontario's Greenbelt is the world's largest, with over two million acres of farmland, forests, wetlands and rivers working together to provide clean air, fresh water, and a reliable local food source.
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