Enjoying the outdoors – Monitoring the impact of Coronavirus and social distancing
Other Authors: Ian McCall
This research was commissioned to provide an understanding of outdoor visit behaviour and engagement with nature in Scotland during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The research findings are based on online interviews with representative samples of around 1,000 Scottish adults in two separate waves of research. In Wave 1 (undertaken 29th May – 5th June 2020) respondents were asked to think about the March – May 2020 lockdown period when the key message was to ‘stay at home’, undertake only essential travel and limit outdoor visits for exercise to one per day, taken alone or with other household members only. In Wave 2 (undertaken 5th – 12th September 2020) respondents were asked to think about the August – September 2020 period when lockdown restrictions had been relaxed, allowing travel outside local areas and for people from different households to meet whilst maintaining physical distancing.
The research found that levels of participation in outdoor recreation and nature engagement activities were higher during the Coronavirus pandemic than might have been expected at the time of year and that the increased levels of participation and engagement found in Wave 1 (covering the March – May period) were sustained into Wave 2 (covering the August – September period, when lockdown restrictions had been eased). Many of those who had reduced or stopped spending time outdoors in Wave 1 had started to spend more time outdoors in Wave 2. Nevertheless, participation in outdoor visits remained lower among some population groups. Around 40% of respondents in Wave 1 of the research and 24% in Wave 2 reported spending less time outdoors than a year ago, with older people, less affluent people and those in poor health most likely to state that this was the case.
Physical and mental wellbeing benefits were major factors influencing people’s decision to spend time outdoors during the pandemic. In both waves of research, around half of respondents stated that nature had become more important to their health and wellbeing during this period and that they expected to spend more time outdoors in future.