In a new study, researchers have revealed that Covid -19 pandemic drove many urban dwellers into nature for the first time in years. The study, published in the journal PLOS ONE, found that 26 per cent of people visiting parks during the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic had rarely - or never - visited nature in the previous year.

"Like many people, we noticed a large increase in the number of visitors to urban forests and parks in the early days of the pandemic," said the study's senior author Brendan Fisher of the University of Vermont (UVM) in the US.

Fisher added, "We wanted to understand how people are using local nature to cope with the physical and mental challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

Visitors to 25 parks and natural areas around greater Burlington, Vermont, an area of roughly 214,000 residents, were surveyed while a sample of over 400 people as the state's health protocols - including social distancing, business and school closures, and travel restrictions - were introduced.

As Covid-19 health protocols were introduced, nearly 70 per cent of park users increased their visits to local nature.

Amongst the respondents - 81 per cent - reported increased importance for these areas, and access to them. Nearly 70 per cent of first time or infrequent visitors said access to these places during Covid-19 was vital.

While 27 per cent of people reported reducing their group size when visiting urban nature, another 11 per cent of visitors increased their group size during Covid-19. 

This follows with 17 per cent of respondents who reported that these natural areas allowed them safe spaces to socialize during the pandemic.

Common reasons for visiting natural areas and parks were: getting outside, exercise, connecting to nature, finding peace and quiet, birding, dog walking, and time with children.

The researchers found that 66 per cent of people used these natural areas to find peace and relaxation, and 32 per cent reported these places as spaces for contemplation, activities that have been shown to reduce stress.

According to researchers, the demand for urban green space is increasing at a time when many communities are seeing losses of urban natural areas or uncertain priority for them.


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