Covid-19 has influenced people's relationship with nature, researchers at the University of Vermont have found, in an analysis revealing that men -- and particularly women -- have turned to nature for sanctuary during the pandemic.
The researchers studied the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on how people valued nature. Published in the journal, PLOS One, the findings suggest that nature was an important refuge for people during the pandemic.
They studied data from online surveys of over 3,200 people in Vermont during the US state's "Stay safe, stay home" executive order, announced in May 2020. People in the study reported significant increases in outdoor activity during this time, especially among women. In terms of the largest increases, taking walks in nature, away from urban hustle and bustle, proved particularly popular with participants during this period of social distancing (70%), as did watching wildlife (64%).
The people polled also showed growing interest for relaxing alone outside (58%), gardening (57%) and doing artistic activities like photography outdoors (54%).
There was also a shift in the way people valued nature during the pandemic. Participants notably said that, in nature, they cherished a greater sense of mental health and well-being (59%), exercise (29%) or simply appreciating nature's beauty (29%).
The study revealed that women increased their nature use in more ways than men. This applied to several activities like gardening and walking, with women respectively 1.7 times and 2.9 times more likely to report increasing their engagement than men.
"More research is needed, but our preliminary analysis suggests that, during the pandemic, women are more likely than men to report increased importance of values that include mental well-being, beauty, exercise, familiarity with landscape, and fun. Our next step is to analyze the qualitative data to explore this result more fully," explains the study's senior author, Rachelle Gould.
In the long term, the findings could encourage authorities to recognize the value of nature in providing an important escape for people potentially facing similar events in the future.