Urban green space access, social cohesion, and mental health outcomes before and during Covid-19

Bev Wilson, Chris Neale, Jenny Roe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Physical activity offers significant mental health and social wellbeing benefits but social distancing and quarantine requirements during the pandemic along with disparities in access to parks and other urban green spaces limited the ability of some to pursue outdoor activities like recreational walking, jogging, or hiking. This paper asks: (1) how access to different types of urban green space varies by race and income, (2) how green space usage changed, and (3) how greenspace usage impacted mental health during the early phase of the pandemic. Using data from a household survey as well as anonymized GPS data generated by mobile devices, we explore these question in Richmond, Virginia. At the pandemic's onset, visits to green spaces declined regionally, but increased for low-income groups as a proportion of all visits. Structural equation modeling results suggest that mental health was directly influenced by social cohesion and race, with evidence of an indirect effect of greenspace usage on mental health through its impact on social cohesion. Social cohesion's effect on mental health was positive while respondents who identified as White were less likely to report positive mental health. We also find a strong, positive effect of greenspace use and satisfaction on social cohesion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105173
Number of pages14
Early online date14 Jun 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 Jun 2024

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