Logo StatCan COVID-19: Data to Insights for a Better Canada Access and use of parks and green spaces: The potential impact of COVID-19 on Canadian households

by Gordon Dewis

Among other physical distancing measures taken to reduce the spread of COVID-19, one of the first responses taken by various levels of government was the closure of parksNote  to the public. While necessary, these restrictions may adversely impact the physical and mental health of people who are not able to visit them.  Considering that a growing body of research has noted the beneficial association between access to parks and green spaces and one’s mental health, these spaces play an important role in the lives of Canadians. (Houlden, et al. 2018) (Vanaken and Danckaerts 2018)

Within this context, many Canadian households make use of parks and green spaces, especially when they are close to their homes. The reasons for this are varied; however, all contribute in some way to the mental and physical well-being of Canadians. Limited access has the potential to negatively impact health, particularly when other stressors exist in a person’s life.

The 2017 Households and the Environment Survey included questions about a household’s access to and use of parks and public green spaces, both those close to homeNote  and elsewhere. Examining the responses to these questions in terms of socio-demographic variables such as location, household composition and dwelling type may provide some insight into how much of an impact the restrictions due to COVID-19 may have on Canadian households.

Proximity to and use of parks and public green spaces

Most Canadian households reported having a park within a ten-minute journey of their home in 2017 (87%). Of those households that reported this, 85% reported that they had visited it within the previous twelve months.

Chart 1 Parks and green spaces close to home, 2017

Data table for Chart 1 
Data table for Chart 1
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 1 2017, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
2017
percent
Canada 87
Large urban centres (CMAs) 90
Cities and towns (CAs) 85
Rural areas and small towns 75

There are some households (13%) that reported they did not have a park or green space close to home. Of these, 39%Note  reported that they visited a park or green space nevertheless, during the previous twelve months.

In urban areas, where parks serve as the predominant nearby green space, restrictions to access may be felt more acutely. The higher the urban density of where a household lived, the more likely the household was to report having a park close to home. Ninety percent of households in large urban centresNote  reported having a park close to home, compared to 85% of households in cities and townsNote  , and 75% of households in rural areas and small townsNote  .

Households with children

Families with childrenNote  may find the restrictions on access to parks due to COVID-19 particularly challenging if a park was used regularly as a venue for outdoor play and activities. Of the households with children that reported a park close to home in 2017, 95% visited the park. In comparison, only 82% of households without children that were near a park visited it.

Chart 2 Access to and use of parks close to home, 2017

Data table for Chart 2 
Data table for Chart 2
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 2. The information is grouped by (appearing as row headers), Had a park or public green space close to home and Visited a park or green space close to home (% of households close to a park), calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Had a park or public green space close to home Visited a park or green space close to home (% of households close to a park)
percent
All households 87 85
Children in household 90 95
No children in household 86 82

Household income

How likely a household reported a park close to home was related to the household’s total annual income. The higher a household’s total annual income, the more likely it was to have a park or public green space close to where they lived in 2017. About three-quarters (76%) of households with an income of less than $20,000 per year reported having access to a nearby park, compared to 95% of households with an annual income of $150,000 or more.  Similarly, the likelihood that a household with a nearby park had visited that park ranged from 73% of households in the lowest income bracket to 94% in the highest bracket.

Chart 3 Access to and use of parks close to home, 2017

Data table for Chart 3 
Data table for Chart 3
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 3. The information is grouped by (appearing as row headers), Had a park or public green space close to home and Visited a park or green space close to home (% of households close to a park), calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Had a park or public green space close to home Visited a park or green space close to home (% of households close to a park)
percent
Less than $20,000 (includes income loss) 76 73
$20,000 to less than $40,000 83 76
$40,000 to less than $60,000 87 81
$60,000 to less than $80,000 90 88
$80,000 to less than $100,000 91 85
$100,000 to less than $150,000 94 92
$150,000 or more 95 94
Not stated 75 81

In the absence of having access to a park as a result of COVID-19 physical isolation measures, households with a lawn or area with grass around their property may have been able to use it for limited outdoor activity, in lieu of a park. Of all households, those with an income of less than $20,000 per year were less likely to have a lawn as part of their property (40%), compared to 86% of households earning $150,000 or more per year.

Chart 4 Households with lawns or areas with grass, 2017

Data table for Chart 4 
Data table for Chart 4
Table summary
This table displays the results of Data table for Chart 4. The information is grouped by (appearing as row headers), 2017, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
2017
percent
Canada 70
Less than $20,000 (includes income loss) 40
$20,000 to less than $40,000 57
$40,000 to less than $60,000 63
$60,000 to less than $80,000 68
$80,000 to less than $100,000 78
$100,000 to less than $150,000 84
$150,000 or more 86
Not stated 67

Table 1
Access to and use of parks and public green spaces, 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Access to and use of parks and public green spaces Had a park close to home, Visited a park close to home, No parks close to home and Visited a distant park, calculated using percent units of measure (appearing as column headers).
Had a park close to homeTable 1 Note 1 Visited a park close to homeTable 1 Note 2 No parks close to homeTable 1 Note 1 Visited a distant parkTable 1 Note 3
percent
All households 87 85 13 39
Large urban centres (CMAs) 90 86 10 37
Cities and towns (CAs) 85 84 15 47
Rural and small towns 75 80 25 38
Tenure
Home owned by a household member 87 85 13 41
Home not owned by a household member 86 85 14 34
Dwelling type
Single detached home 87 85 13 44
Semi-detached, row 87 88 13Note E: Use with caution 25Note E: Use with caution
Apartments 88 84 12 36
Other 84 85 16 34
Household type
Children in househould 90 95 10 47
Children-only 95 90 Note F: too unreliable to be published Note F: too unreliable to be published
Adult(s) plus children 90 96 10 49
Senior(s) plus children 78 Note F: too unreliable to be published Note F: too unreliable to be published Note F: too unreliable to be published
Adult(s), senior(s) and children 92 88 Note F: too unreliable to be published Note F: too unreliable to be published
No children in household 86 82 14 37
Adult(s) only 89 84 11 45
Senior(s) only 82 75 18 26
Adult(s) and senior(s) 83 81 17 38
Total annual household income
Less than $20,000 (includes income loss) 76 73 24 31Note E: Use with caution
$20,000 to less than $40,000 83 76 17 37
$40,000 to less than $60,000 87 81 13 42
$60,000 to less than $80,000 90 88 10Note E: Use with caution 43Note E: Use with caution
$80,000 to less than $100,000 91 85 9 63
$100,000 to less than $150,000 94 92 6 65
$150,000 or more 95 94 5 83
Not stated 75 81 25 22

Table 2
Households that had a lawn or area with grass, 2017
Table summary
This table displays the results of Households that had a lawn or area with grass percent (appearing as column headers).
percent
Total annual household income
All households 70
Less than $20,000 (includes income loss) 40
$20,000 to less than $40,000 57
$40,000 to less than $60,000 63
$60,000 to less than $80,000 68
$80,000 to less than $100,000 78
$100,000 to less than $150,000 84
$150,000 or more 86
Not stated 67

Methodology

The Households and the Environment Survey (HES) asks Canadian households about their activities and behaviours with respect to the environment. It covers a wide variety of topics including water and energy consumption and conservation, hazardous products used in the home, and the household's interactions with nature. Data from the survey are used by governments to guide policies and programs, by researchers to learn more about Canadians and by individuals to see how they compare with the rest of the country.

In 2017, the HES surveyed approximately 22,000 households between October 2017 and early-January 2018.

The target population of the 2017 HES consisted of households in Canada, excluding households located in Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, households located on reserves and in other Aboriginal settlements in the provinces, and households consisting entirely of full-time members of the Canadian Armed Forces. Institutions and households in certain remote regions were also excluded.

First conducted in 1991, the HES was subsequently conducted in 1994, 2006 and every second year starting with 2007. Some of the environmental variables from the first cycle continue to be measured, but many new topics have been introduced over the years.

References

British Columbia Government. 2020. "All BC Parks Closing." British Columbia Government News. 8 April 2020. Accessed 25 May 2020.

City of Toronto. 2020. "City of Toronto closing playgrounds and other parks amenities to stop the spread of COVID-19." City of Toronto Media Room: News Releases & Media Advisories. 25 March 2020. Accessed 8 June 2020.

Houlden, Victoria, Scott Welch, João Porto de Albuquerue, Stephen Jarvis, and Karen Rees. 2018. "The relationship between greenspace and mental wellbeing of adults: A systematic review." PLoS ONE 13 (9).

National Capital Commission. 2020. "Closure notice." NCC Twitter feed. 2 April 2020. Accessed 25 May 2020.

Parks Canada. 2020. "News release (24 March 2020)." Parks Canada. 24 March 2020. Accessed 25 May 2020.

Vanaken, Gert-Jan, and Marina Danckaerts. 2018. "Impact of green space exposure on children's and adolescents' mental health: A systematic review." International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15 (12).

Report a problem on this page

Is something not working? Is there information outdated? Can't find what you're looking for?

Please contact us and let us know how we can help you.

Privacy notice

Date modified: