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55% Of Locals Spend More Time Outdoors Than Pre-Pandemic

Writes Ciaran Dineen

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) have revealed that 55% of respondents, as part of a Pulse Survey, indicated that they now spend more time outdoors than they did before the beginning of the 2020 pandemic.

The survey was conducted during April and May and asked participants a range of questions relating to outdoor activities. In the areas around Carrigaline, Crosshaven and Passage West, residents were fortunate during the lockdown periods given the immediate access to coastal walkways and trails, while open outdoor public spaces were also made available as part of Project Act in the summer of 2020. One of the big successes to come out of this scheme run by Cork County Council, was the installation of the parklet in Carrigaline, while opportunities for local businesses to provide outdoor seating was also enabled.

When asked about attitudes to natural spaces since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, of those who spent more time outdoors, 78% reported that they spent more time in natural spaces, 71% realised that being in natural spaces was important to their well-being, and 63% spent more time socialising in an outdoor setting. Over half of respondents (56%) reported discovering new natural spaces since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Around three in ten respondents reported taking up new outdoor activities since March 2020. Of these, almost half (46%) reported taking up more than one new activity. The most popular activities taken up were 'Hill walking' (26%), 'Hiking' (24%), 'Running' (24%), 'Cycling' (22%), and 'Sea swimming' (21%).

Almost all respondents (98%) liked spending time outdoors. Of those who liked to spend time outdoors, more than eight in ten reported spending this time outside to get fresh air (87%) or to enjoy nature (85%).

When thinking about their recent visits to natural spaces over the past six months for recreational purposes, 97% of the respondents who liked to spend time outdoors felt healthier and 93% felt happier afterwards. More than 90% had access to a garden and 34% had started at least one new gardening activity listed in this survey1 since the start of the pandemic.

When it comes to environmental issues, almost 60% of the participants indicated that they were concerned about climate change (58%) or pollution of freshwaters and marine waters (57%). When asked how, if at all, they had taken measures to personally change their habits to better protect the environment, more than 60% of respondents reported they had reduced the heating of their home in the winter, and more than half (53%) had reduced their use of water.

Of those respondents who liked to spend time outdoors to enjoy nature, 93% reported that they would like to learn more about nature. 69% of these people said that the reason for this was to help reduce their environmental impact.

There is clearly more of an appetite to venture outside than ever before, with a majority of respondents now conscious of the need to protect the environment, not only for the mitigation of climate change, but for their own health and lifestyle. In regards to this, almost 80% of participants answered ‘no’ when asked if there are enough green spaces and biodiversity in urban areas, indicating that we need to create new spaces and safeguard those that already exist.

Commenting on the results, Sylvie Clappe, Statistician, said: “During the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions, many of us were forced to re-examine our relationship with the outdoors. For some, time spent in the blue and green natural spaces surrounding our homes was essential to our physical and mental well-being. With this survey, we tried to capture attitudes towards nature and the environment and examine how people interact with the outdoor and natural spaces that surround them in Ireland.”

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