August 24, 2020

Study: Parks Are Source of Happiness During Pandemic

We came across a fascinating article the other day. The University of Vermont found the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the deepest depressions among Americans in over 12 years. Not surprising, and pretty grim, right? But there’s good news too: a researcher found that visits to public parks and playgrounds made people happy! 

Tracking Tweets

These researchers at the Vermont Complex Systems Center review a LOT of tweets every day - like nearly 50 million a lot. They use a twitter analytic tool called the Hedonometer. This is a really cool thing. It tracks words in tweets to generate a “happiness score” for the national mood.

So at Christmas, we were all pretty happy. We used words like merry and love, family, and gifts. Fast forward a few months. In recent weeks, researchers noticed the Hedonometer score had plummeted to its lowest point since the study began in 2008. Do terms like quarantine and distancing, canceled, and death sound familiar? 

You: Can we get to the good news? 

Us: Please!

Turn Your Frown Upside Down

As troubling as this discovery was, at least one VCSC researcher was trying to play the Glad Game. The researcher found that visits to public parks and playgrounds corresponded with a significant increase to one’s mood, with an “afterglow” that lasts close to four hours. The researchers concluded that park visits enhance an individual’s mood in the short-term.

They also found the presence of parks and playgrounds improve the overall mood of a community during times of global crisis, economic downturn, and civil unrest. In fact, residents of urban areas experience reduced rates of depression and mental health issues when blighted spaces are renovated into public parks and playgrounds. This was highlighted in a 2018 University of Pennsylvania study

A Prescription Called Play

Tom Norquist, senior vice president of corporate innovation for PlayCore, advisor to GameTime, and a lifelong advocate for a playful life said, “Emotionally, what’s the opposite of play? Depression. What’s one of the biggest things plaguing our society right now? Depressed people. Play is a solution, and you don’t need a drug for it.”

Parks Are An Economic Stimulus

In addition to being great for our mental health, parks are integral to our communities' economic and environmental welfare. The National Recreation and Parks Association found that America’s local and regional parks spurred an astounding $140 billion in economic activity while supporting almost 1 million total jobs!

Committed to Parks and Recreation

We know the importance of parks for the well-being of both communities and individuals. Throughout our nearly-100-year history we’ve made it a priority to support parks and all those who help make parks possible. We believe they make the world a much happier place. Now we have the data, and the tweets, to prove it.

Join us in making sure community parks are a source of happiness for generations to come. Our playground experts can help you create neighborhood destinations that promote physical health and emotional wellness.