Understanding the Role of Nature Engagement in Supporting Health and Wellbeing during COVID-19

Patricia Darcy, Jennifer Taylor, Lorna Mackay, Naomi Ellis, Christopher Gidlow

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The importance of natural environments in supporting health and wellbeing has been well evidenced in supporting positive mental and physical health outcomes, including during periods of crisis and stress. Given the disproportionate impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been greatest for those who are most vulnerable, understanding the role of natural environment and alternative forms of nature engagement in supporting health and wellbeing for vulnerable groups is important. This study explored how nature engagement supported health and wellbeing in those with a pre-existing health condition during the first UK lockdown. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 17 adults with a pre-existing health condition and analysed using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA). Four themes were identified: COVID-19 versus nature; Nature as an extension and replacement; Nature connectedness; and Therapeutic nature. The findings show the importance of nature in supporting health and wellbeing in those with a pre-existing health condition through engagement with private and public natural environments, micro-restorative opportunities, nature connection as an important pathway, and the therapeutic benefits of nature engagement. The present research extends the evidence-base beyond patterns of nature engagement to a deeper understanding of how those with existing health conditions perceived and interacted with nature in relation to their health and wellbeing during the first UK lockdown. Findings are discussed in relation to health supporting environments, micro-restorative opportunities, and policy implications
Original languageEnglish
Article number3908
Number of pages27
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2022

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