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Parks and Playgrounds Make Life Better Even During a Global Pandemic


The University of Vermont found the COVID-19 pandemic has caused severe depression in the world population. 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!

Follow the Tweets

Researchers at the Vermont Complex Systems Center review a LOT of tweets every day. They use an analytic tool called the Hedonometer. It tracks words in tweets to generate a “happiness score” for populations around the world.

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?

Here's the Good News

One VCSC 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 found that park visits enhance an individual’s mood in the short-term.

They also found the presence of community parks and playgrounds improve the overall mood of a community during times of global crisis, economic downturn, and civil unrest. Residents of urban areas experience reduced rates of depression and mental health issues when 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 play 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.”

Committed to Parks and Recreation

We know how important parks are to individuals and communities. Throughout our nearly-100-year history we’ve made it a priority to support parks and all those who help make parks possible. They make the world a much better place. And the science proves 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.