The Impact of Covid-19 on People’s Connections to Places and Their Wellbeing

Author Paige Hughes

This resource from Paige Hughes presents key findings from an MSc in Place Management and Leadership research project. The study focused on people’s changing relationships with places during the Covid-19 pandemic and the connections between greenspaces and people’s wellbeing. Based on interviews with place users and practitioners, four main themes are discussed: 'connection', 'loss', 'freedom, control, and equality', and 'change'. The resource concludes by providing practical advice for place managers based on the study.

Date added 15 September 2021
Last updated 15 September 2021

*This resource is about wellbeing and place during Covid-19. It is not specifically about the High Street, but has been included in response to requests for more studies/information about this topic, as well as linking to recreational space, liveability, and experience priorities for High Street vitality and viability*

This resource from Paige Hughes presents key findings from an MSc in Place Management and Leadership research project. The study focused on people’s changing relationships with places during the Covid-19 pandemic and the connections between greenspaces and people’s wellbeing.

The project was based on interviews conducted with place users and place practitioners, including a retail consultant, regeneration manager, urban designer, chief executive of a non-profit organisation, and a place-based therapist. These interviews also incorporated creative methods, such as a mapping exercise, to further probe into people’s relationships to places, and how this might have been disrupted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on the interviews, it was found that there is a direct relationship between place experiences and people’s wellbeing, greenspaces are especially associated with wellbeing, and people have become more aware of the importance of the natural environment since the crisis.

Four more detailed themes were also identified in the study, as summarised below:

Key project themes

Connection

People seek out places which will help them to feel connected to either their environment or other people, and feeling more connected to places and natural environments can help to enhance people’s wellbeing.

Loss 

Dring the Covid-19 pandemic people felt as though they had lost certain places, which negatively impacted their wellbeing levels. Greenspaces became particularly important places where people could restore a sense of place belonging.

Freedom, Control & Equality

Participants in the study felt a loss of control during Covid-19 related lockdowns, with greenspaces facilitating a sense of freedom and escape. However, concerns over unequal access to such spaces were also raised in the project.

Change

Changes to people’s relationships with places were noticeable during the Covid-19 pandemic, which could continue into the future, such as working from home, a return to the local, and a growing preference for independent retailers.

Key recommendations

The document concludes by detailing several key recommendations based on the above project findings for those managing places (e.g. high streets and town centres), to improve the wellbeing of local communities through place-based interventions:

  1. Further consider people’s emotional connections to – and experiences – with places in any future placemaking interventions (e.g. emotional design and design for wellbeing).
  2. It is important to ensure a greater range of people have access to clean, accessible, and safe greenspaces, to enhance the wellbeing of local communities.
  3. Attend to the needs and desires of local places users in future place design – for instance, participants in this research wanted more pedestrianisation and café culture, wildflowers, community activity within greenspaces, and greener public transport options.