DOC survey reveals benefits of outdoors

Mental and physical health and a desire to connect with history and nature are among the motivations for time in the outdoors, according to New Zealanders who responded to a DOC survey.

New Zealanders living in Otago have the highest participation in sightseeing and mountain biking than all other New Zealanders, according to the Department of Conservation’s (DOC) New Zealanders in the Outdoors Survey. 

The survey, undertaken before the impacts of COVID-19, between September 2018 and February 2020, had around 3,800 respondents and was designed to help DOC better understand New Zealanders’ experiences in the outdoors and nature.

The findings highlighted how being in nature contributes to the wellbeing of New Zealanders. 41 per cent of respondents referenced their mental health as a key benefit, 35 per cent referenced physical health, and 34 per cent cited a desire for connection with nature. Getting away from everyday routine and reflecting was also considered important.

“In their comments, some of the survey respondents referred specifically to how being outdoors improved their wellbeing, using terms like ‘mindfulness’, ‘calmer’, ‘restful’ and ‘invigorated,” said DOC Strategy and Insights Manager Tim Bamford.

90 per cent of Otago respondents agreed that access to the outdoors was a major positive

of living in New Zealand, although only 42 per cent agreed that they take pride in the current state of the New Zealand outdoors - which was lower than the level of agreement for all New Zealanders.

The survey and analysis also revealed preferred outdoors experiences, with short walks (less than three hours) the leader, enjoyed by 93 per cent of Otago respondents. Picnics and barbecues were enjoyed by 87 per cent, followed by sightseeing (81 per cent). 

Significantly, visiting cultural or historic heritage sites was the fourth most popular outdoor experience, with 72 per cent of Otago residents - and 66 per cent of New Zealanders - showing a desire to connect with their history.

“Since the impacts of COVID-19 we’ve seen a desire from New Zealanders to get out into nature,” said Bamford. “The survey helps build DOC’s understanding of how and why people use the great outdoors so we can best cater to their needs and help build mutually beneficial experiences where people take time in nature for their wellbeing, and give back to nature for its wellbeing.”

Read edition 993 of the Wānaka Sun here.


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