Exploring the Patterns of Recreational Activity among Urban Green Spaces in Poland
In order to systematize the discussion on the positive effects of exposure to nature on the physical and mental health, we use the term urban green leisure (UGL) to define leisure activities that are undertaken within urban green areas. UGL has already been related to benefits on mental health and well-being.
Therefore, we formulated the following research questions:
What is the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics, types of visited UGS and mood regulation strategies?
What is the relationship between mood regulation strategies and the preference for types of recreation in UGS?
We used structural equation modeling and mediation analysis to determine the mediating factors for mood regulation tendencies. An analysis of socio-demographic patterns of recreational activity and their impact on mood regulation strategies used by urban green space visitors may help to shape urban green spaces and the offer of recreation therein in such a way as to be particularly beneficial to the mental health of city dwellers. Due to the globalization process and internationalization of urban recreation management, insights from a Polish perspective may be helpful also for UGS management practices in other culturally similar countries, e.g., in Central Europe.
The demographics factor (DEM) is loaded with the four exogenous variables that have a positive impact on the overall value of the construct. Age (0.96) and the number of children (0.59) contribute the most. Educational level and place of residence are significant; however, their loads are smaller. We also identified a correlation between these two variables, i.e., with the size of the city, the education level also rises. Places factor (PLA) consists of three measured variables that positively load it. Parks (using parks for recreational activity) contribute the most.
The model identified the significant causal relationship between the demographic factor and the tendency to decrease mood (mod). It means that the higher overall values of the demographic factor (higher values of demographics factor (DEM) are associated with higher values of measured variables that contribute to the construct) are associated with lower values of the tendency to decrease the mood (this factor lowers the tendency to decrease the mood). Another significant connection was identified between the places factor and the tendency to increase the mood. The rising places factor (higher values of places factor (PLA) are associated with a larger number of places used for leisure activity) rises the tendency to improve the mood (mop)—the variable grows together with the number of places used for leisure activity. We also observed a negative relation between the places factor and the tendency to decrease mood—this tendency drops as the number of places used for green recreation rises. Therefore, the places factor has a twofold impact on our endogenous variables—as it rises, it induces the tendency to improve mood and deteriorates the tendency to decrease mood.
We also identified a significant and a negative correlation between latent variables; mainly, higher values of the demographic factor correlate with lower values of the places factor. However, both of these latent constructs reduce the mod variable. Among exogenous variables, a positive correlation was observed between the place of residence (liv), education level (edu) and visiting parks for leisure activities (par); with the size of the city, the education level rises together with the frequency of visiting parks. We also identified a significant negative correlation between visiting forests (foe) and parks (par); the people who visit forests tend not to choose parks for their recreational activities.
In the men’s model, riding a bike (bik) and running (run) explain more of the variance of the latent factor, while in the women’s model, the activities factor is positively associated with cycling at the first place. In turn, in both cases, photographing nature (pho), walking (wal), and observing nature (nat) contribute negatively to the activities factor. Thus, these recreational activities reduce the overall variety of the types of recreational activities. In the case of men, observing nature and photographing decrease the factor most significantly, while among women, these factors are photographing nature and walking. In other words, people (both men and women) engaged in proactive forms of recreation tend to join multiple activities, while people preferring receptive approaches to recreation focus on one selected activity.
Observed variables differ also in the significant correlation signs across genders. While in the case of men, the leisure frequency is positively correlated with the tendency to decrease mood, among women, the coincidence is negative. The same regards the connection between leisure frequency and the tendency to increase mood. Data for women reveal a positive correlation here, while in the case of men, the dependency is negative. Although these correlations are weak, they are still statistically significant.
In the case of women, we were unable to confirm a causal relationship between mood regulation strategies, and types of recreational activities. In the men’s model, we identified a significant relationship between the activities factor (ACT) and the tendency to decrease mood. Higher values of this variable cause a decline in the tendency to decrease mood; however, they seem insignificant regarding the tendency to increase mood.
We also identified a connection between the activities factors and the frequency of leisure activity (lef); rising recreational activities (higher values of recreational activities (ACT) are associated with a larger number of activities marked by the respondents) (ACT) may positively impact the frequency of leisure activities. This relation is weak in the case of women and strong in the case of men.
In our research, we proposed an in-depth analysis of the relationship between socio-demographic characteristics, places of recreation at UGS, and mood regulation strategies. We also investigated the relationship between mood regulation strategies and the preference for types of recreation in UGS. We studied gender differences in the patterns of green leisure.
We identified a significant causal relationship between the demographic factor and the tendency to decrease mood. It means that higher overall values of the demographic factor (higher values of demographics factor (DEM) are associated with higher values of measured variables that contribute the this construct) are associated with lower values of the tendency to decrease the mood (this factor lowers the tendency to decrease the mood). Demographic aspects (age and the number of children in particular) are associated with the kind of tendency people have to regulate their mood, which is a crucial aspect of well-being.
We observed that with the size of a city, the education level rises and so does the frequency of visiting parks. We also identified a significant negative correlation between visiting forests and parks; the people who visit forests tend not to choose parks for their recreational activities, as the former seems to be the better alternative (if available). The results also suggest that there is no homogenous group of those who undertake physical activities in green urban areas. There are different preferences and different incentives for green leisure among various groups of UGS. We found that practicing some types of recreational activities significantly decreases the variety of other forms of green leisure. For example, men who observe and photograph nature have the tendency to limit other forms of green recreation, while among women, the recreational activities factor is significantly decreased by photographing nature and walking. We consider these findings crucial for green space planning to meet even the most hermetic needs of UGS visitors.
This piece of research is limited in scope because we studied only some possible types of green recreation correlated with only several socio-demographic characteristics, and therefore, investigation should be extended, taking into consideration several patterns of city dwellers’ behaviors, such as work patterns, health conditions, financial situation, etc. Furthermore, our sample included only Polish participants, and therefore, we cannot generalize these findings to other countries/cultures, where other variables may play a key role.
Since green recreation is a promising area for interdisciplinary study on both objective and subjective well-being, we propose to continue a wide range of research that would encompass the field of urban architecture, forestry, tourism and leisure, as well as sociology, psychology, and behavioral economics.
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