A leading professor has called on the government to make preparations for the next pandemic after a new study revealed that those who do not have access to their own individual outdoor space experienced greater mental health challenges throughout the COVID-19 lockdown.
The data – released by Scottish researchers – identified a postcode lottery with those who live in more deprived areas more likely to suffer from mental health challenges than those who live in affluent areas.
The research – which comes from a telephone study of nearly 3000 adults – has been published into the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.
It is hoped that the data will allow governments to take the steps necessary to limit the mental health impact of a future pandemic.
“We need to ensure that people do have access to outdoor space”
Professor Gill Hubbard
Professor Gill Hubbard, the lead author of the paper, has called on the authorities to understand the importance of housing on our mental health.
“When we are looking at mental health we need to consider housing. It should be high up on the government’s agenda. Where you live makes a difference to your mental health.
“We should not see health in isolation. What we do with housing, what we do with our environment – all of the planners need to factor this in.
“Therefore, we do need to improve housing. We need to ensure that people do have access to outside space.
AUDIO: Professor Gill Hubbard, lead author of the research paper, discusses the challenges for those who do not have access to individual outdoor space.
“If you imagine you live in a high-rise flat and you are stuck on the eleventh floor it’s going to have an impact.
“If you compare that to somebody who can leave their house and sit in their own garden, it’s a very different experience. It is going to affect your mental health.”
Another study, released in the summer of 2020, found that one in eight people across the UK had no access to a garden, with black people more than four times more likely to have no access to private outdoor space in comparison to their white counterparts.
Professor Hubbard added: “We don’t necessarily choose where we live. I’m sure that a lot of people who could afford a house with a garden would probably purchase that.
“I think we are saying something that a lot of people have been thinking anyway. But we now have the evidence which shows that your home environment is really important for your mental health.”
Mental health matters.
For many the lockdown has not been too difficult, working from home with plenty of outdoor space.
Millions have not been so fortunate.
As a country we need far more focus on mental wellbeing, it has a huge impact on a person's physical health.
— Professor Karol Sikora (@ProfKarolSikora) May 18, 2020
Professor Hubbard and her team also uncovered that people who believed that they were at greater risk from Covid-19 were more distressed than those who thought that they were not high risk.
This link was found to be much worse amongst groups who did not have access to their own individual outdoor space.
As the coronavirus outbreak hit the UK in March 2020, Public Health England (PHE) released a report recommending greater access to green space in the most economically deprived areas of the UK.