Perceived Qualities, Visitation and Felt Benefits of Preferred Nature Spaces during the COVID-19 Pandemic in Australia: A Nationally-Representative Cross-Sectional Study of 2940 Adults

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We investigated how the perceived quality of natural spaces influenced levels of visitation and felt benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic in Australia via a nationally representative online and telephone survey conducted on 12–26 October (Social Research Centre’s Life in Australia™ panel aged > 18 years, 78.8% response, n = 3043). Our sample was restricted to those with complete information (n = 2940). Likert scale responses to 18 statements regarding the quality of local natural spaces that participants preferred to visit were classified into eight quality domains: access; aesthetics; amenities; facilities; incivilities; potential usage; safety; and social. These domains were then summed into an overall nature quality score (mean = 5.8, range = 0–16). Associations between these quality variables and a range of nature visitation and felt benefits were tested using weighted multilevel models, adjusted for demographic and socioeconomic confounders. Compared with participants in the lowest perceived nature quality quintile, those in the highest quality quintile had higher odds of spending at least 2 h in their preferred local nature space in the past week (Odds Ratio [OR] = 3.40; 95% Confidence Interval [95%CI] = 2.38–4.86), of visiting their preferred nature space almost every day in the past four weeks (OR = 3.90; 2.77–5.47), and of reporting increased levels of nature visitation in comparison with before the COVID-19 pandemic (OR = 3.90; 2.54–6.00). Participants in the highest versus lowest perceived nature quality quintile also reported higher odds of feeling their visits to nature enabled them to take solace and respite during the pandemic (OR = 9.49; 6.73–13.39), to keep connected with their communities (OR = 5.30; 3.46–8.11), and to exercise more often than they did before the pandemic (OR = 3.88; 2.57–5.86). Further analyses of each quality domain indicated time in and frequency of visiting nature spaces were most affected by potential usage and safety (time in nature was also influenced by the level of amenity). Feelings of connection and solace were most affected by potential usage and social domains. Exercise was most influenced by potential usage, social and access domains. In conclusion, evidence reported in this study indicates that visits to nature and various health-related benefits associated with it during the COVID-19 pandemic were highly contingent upon numerous qualities of green and blue spaces.

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University of Glasgow



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