Escaping to nature in pandemic: a natural experiment of COVID-19 in Asian cities

Cities implemented social distancing measures to cope with COVID-19, which kept people away from nature. A steep drop in the greenspace use was observed in western cities. Surprisingly, news revealed a surging greenspace use in Asian cities. In this study, we used COVID-19 outbreak stages as natural experiments to investigate individual behavioural changes of greenspace use before and during the pandemic. Our case cities are Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo and Seoul. We extracted panel data which consisted of longitudinal posts of 100, 232 users, being posted in 1,185 greenspaces in the four Asian cities. Our statistical models found a 5.3% increase in the odds of people using greenspaces for every 100 additional weekly new cases. The analyses also revealed people’s preference in larger, nature parks that are close to city centres. Due to the established physical and mental health benefits of greenspaces, people have been escaping to nature to cope with the pandemic in Asian cities.
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