New research from Fields in Trust demonstrates a direct and statistically significant link between publicly accessible parks and green spaces and health and well being. Based on new analysis of existing data from Defra and Natural England and a new primary data (sample size 4,033) Fields in Trust have established, for the first time at the national level, a link between an individual’s use of parks and greenspaces and an improvement in health and wellbeing (covering General Health and the four ONS wellbeing questions – life satisfaction, sense of worth, happiness and anxiety).
On average, the more frequently park or green space trips are made, the higher an individual’s wellbeing. The most practical and effective use of an individual’s time would be to visit their local park or green space at least once a week to gain most of the health and wellbeing benefits. This results in a recommended ‘dosage’ for parks and green space: if it is ‘Five a day’ for fruit and veg then it is ‘Once a week’ for parks.
The new research also identifies the importance of parks and green spaces as venues for community connections, helping to reduce the risk of loneliness. Research highlights links between park usage and demographics; parks and green spaces are particularly important to families who are twice as likely (33%) to be users of parks than non-users (18%).
The findings are released as Parks and Green Spaces Minister, Marcus Jones MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Minister for Local Government formally responds to the Department for Communities and Local Government Select Committee Inquiry into the Future of Public Parks. As part of his response the Minister announced the creation of a ‘Parks Action Group’. This advisory panel, chaired by the minister, will include Fields in Trust as a member alongside other green space organisations who are tasked with applying their expertise to inform a new cross-departmental group of government departments.
Chief executive, Helen Griffiths said: “I welcome the Ministers response to the CLG Parliamentary Committee and Fields in Trust’s appointment to the newly established “Parks Action Group” at this pivotal moment for the future of parks and green spaces. Our ongoing research recognises how these spaces help to address significant public policy issues including health and wellbeing and community integration. We are looking forward to furthering our work with colleagues across the sector to ensure that we value parks and green spaces and take account of the vital contribution they make to local communities.”
The minister’s announcement comes in the week that Fields in Trust launches the UK’s Best Park Award 2017. At a time when the UK’s parks are seeing a dramatic reduction in funding for upkeep and maintenance and childhood obesity is identified as a growing concern, the UK’s Best Park award will highlight the vital role of local parks and green spaces – for play, relaxation or sport – and help ensure they are protected from closure or building development.
UK’s Best Park is a unique award open to all local green spaces across the UK. A simple online nomination form allows anyone to suggest their favourite green space. This will be followed by a public vote with the winner announced at the Fields in Trust Awards ceremony on 29 November.
The detailed findings of the new Fields in Trust research will be published in a full academic paper which will identify not only details of park and green space usage but will also reveal the results of a new bespoke survey identifying the value placed on parks and green spaces by those who use them.
Fields in Trust currently safeguards over 2,600 sites, a total of 30,000 acres of land (12,140ha.) including playgrounds, playing fields, and formal and informal parkland across the UK. Recreational spaces in residential areas remain a priority for protection at a time when there is pressure on land for new housing development. Parks and playing fields safeguarded with a Fields in Trust deed of dedication ensure that the land will be protected for community use, in perpetuity. Fields in Trust work to ensure that all communities, and particularly young people, should be able to enjoy healthy, active, outdoor recreation within walking distance of home.