Dublin parks gave mental lift in lockdown

DCU study highlights overcrowding, lack of toilets and dog fouling as issues

Dublin’s urban parks have been credited with improving people’s physical and mental health during Covid-19 lockdowns in research from Dublin City University (DCU) and Dublin City Council. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

Dublin’s urban parks have been credited with improving people’s physical and mental health during Covid-19 lockdowns in research from Dublin City University (DCU) and Dublin City Council. Photograph: Brenda Fitzsimons

 

Dublin’s urban parks have been credited with improving people’s physical and mental health during Covid-19 lockdowns in research from Dublin City University (DCU) and Dublin City Council.

A survey of more than 2,200 Dublin residents found there was a significant increase in park usage over the last 18 months, particularly during the working week, which became comparable to higher weekend levels pre-lockdown.

Lack of toilet facilities was cited as the number one issue which affected park usage, with 41.8 per cent of respondents citing this as a problem. The next two most common issues were overcrowding (34.3 per cent) and dog fouling (30.4 per cent). Even though people were using the park spaces to exercise, very few adult respondents mentioned using exercise equipment installed in these spaces.

The two most common reasons respondents cited for visiting parks was for walking and to improve their “health and wellbeing”, with 9 in 10 agreeing the park helped to improve their physical and mental health, allowing them to “clear the head” and “get out of the house”.

The importance of urban parks for socialising safely during the lockdown was also highlighted. Meeting friends and family helped reduce feelings of isolation and parks were viewed as a safe space where social distancing could be maintained. Respondents living alone or widowed said the park gave them an opportunity to reduce loneliness and interact with others.

Dr Carol Barron, assistant professor in DCU’s School of Nursing, Psychotherapy and Community Health, said the research highlighted the need for a more “ecological approach” to public health. “Respondents valued urban parks equally for its mental health and physical health benefits during the Covid-19 lockdown.”

Les Moore head of parks, at Dublin City Council said the study supported the council’s policy investing in developing new parks “in parts of the city where there is a deficit of access.”