Study reveals importance of personal outdoor space during COVID-19 pandemic

Scottish researchers have found that people without patios and gardens experienced greater mental health challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic than those who have access to their own outdoor space.

The findings were made by health experts from the University of the Highlands and Islands and the University of Aberdeen who surveyed 2,969 adults from around Scotland in June and July last year.

The study also revealed that people who had to share outdoor space and who live in deprived areas also experienced great mental health challenges during the pandemic.

The findings of the ‘COVID-19 health and adherence research in Scotland' project have been published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Gill Hubbard, Professor of Health Services Research at the University of the Highlands and Islands, is the lead author of the paper. She explained: "Our findings show that people who had their own personal outdoor space, such as a garden or patio, had better mental health during the pandemic than people who had no outside space or who had to share their outdoor space at home. The study also shows that people living in affluent areas had better mental health than those in deprived areas. Taken together, this shows that the effects of this pandemic are worse for people who do not live in homes with accessible gardens."

The study also found that people who believed they were at greater risk of getting COVID-19 and that they would be very ill if they became infected were more distressed than people who did not think they were at high risk from the virus. This link between risk beliefs and psychological distress was found to be much worse among people who did not have their own garden or patio.

Diane Dixon, Professor of Psychology at the University of Aberdeen, is leading the project. She said: "The research team is currently investigating whether there is also a link between where people live, their risk beliefs and whether they will get the COVID-19 vaccine. We will present this evidence to government to support national efforts to keep people safe and also protect their mental health during this and potentially future pandemics."