An Exploration of Psychosocial Pathways of Parks’ Effects on Health: A Qualitative Study
2. Materials and Methods
2.1. Research Design
2.2. Participants and Recruitment Strategies
2.4. Thematic Analysis
3.1. Theme 1: Connection to One’s Family, Loved Ones, and Friends
P6: “Me and my son go to parks to forget about the stress of life, to enjoy time together, even if it is just half an hour (…). My son and I use parks quite often—for us it is about family time, we bring a dog sometimes, or a soccer ball, or sometimes we just go for a walk, depending on our mood or weather”.
P3: “I love parks, and I take my kids to the park a lot. We go to the park every day after they finish school. They bike there, or play basketball when the weather is nice. I also meet there with my friend, and we chat while kids are playing. We use parks constantly and we are excited to see how the park will change after the renovation”.
P8: “I go to my local parks with my family, we play together, we have a good time; sometimes our friends join us (…) we play basketball, volleyball, it is great. In the summer we go to parks a lot; we can spend even an entire day in the park”.
P10: “Parks are like baseball, they mean different things to you in different points of your life—right now it is a place for my kid where she rides a bike, so right now for me parks mean play and time spent with my daughter (…) the first six years of her life—we went to park almost every day (…) also she plays hockey in Central Park once a while now—so parks are very important for us for that reason too”.
P1: “I have grandkids, and I want to leave something for them clean and safe environment. What is important to me now is happiness and health and it often has to do with the environment, it is about leaving this place better and greener for the next generations (…) Health is essential in life and you have to have good schools, housing, and clean environment to get it. You cannot have a good health if you do not have a good environment”.
P4: “In my park they show movies once a while; they have tables where kids can sit and eat after they play and it is a safe environment for the kids and it is great for the community to have a place like that (…) everybody cares about what is going to happen to your loved ones, your children after you are gone, so parks are about making things better for the next generations”.
P5: “My children love parks. I want to show my kids everything, I want to teach them, let them experience life. I want my children to be part of something that is meaningful, purposeful. Through our participation in the PARCS study we have been learning about our neighborhood (…) we walk places and we learn. One time we had “a reading a book event” in the park—it was a great exercise, it was like being in a library, but outside”.
P17: “You can make children appreciate parks by explaining to them what we get from green spaces, parks, like fresh air or interaction with family (…). The first thing that comes to mind when I think of parks is relax with my family”.
3.2. Theme 2: Connection to One’s Community and Neighborhood
P18: “Parks bring people in a neighborhood closer together. Because if you sit in a park, you are going to talk to somebody, you need to meet new people, know your neighbors that you did not even know are your neighbors”.
P2: “Sometimes, where we are on a playground and my son is busy playing, I talk to other parents—that’s my chance to talk about different things with them while kids are playing”.
P2: “I am a recreational runner—I join the group of people from my community every Saturday in my park in Astoria and we run for three miles—it is great to run with other people, to have company (…). There are different groups of people in the park—and it is very interesting to me to watch people. I have seen runners sticking together, as well as board skaters, or even vintage car collectors driving around the park to show off. Recently I saw a person flying a drone—and he let me use the remote so I experienced it myself, controlling a drone and we took unbelievable pictures of New York, above the bridge, above East River, and it all happened because I met a stranger in the park and had a conversation”.
P2: “In Astoria they organize concerts and movie shows at my park—even symphony orchestra comes once in a while in the summer, imagine, in the park!!! I never have seen symphony orchestra outdoors before—that was different, but great experience. It was amazing for everyone in the neighborhood—not everybody can go to Carnegie Hall or Lincoln Center. I learn about different activities organized in my park—they have brochures with all the scheduled activities, concerts, movies, exhibits of modern art; and they also have boards with all the activities scheduled for the month; last year they had movies from different cultures—every single Wednesday; in one of the parks in Queens we have sculptures—I love going there, sitting on a bench, and eat a meal, overlooking Manhattan (…) And one of my favorite activities in the summer in Astoria Park is the pool, more than 2000 people capacity—it is very nice; many families come as the pool has different levels—so you see babies, adults swimming and enjoying the pool”.
P17 “I participate in PARCS study because I want to see our community better; our society kinder, working together to make a difference in our lives and in the lives of our children”.
P10: “You cannot complain about New York and not participate in a study (PARCS) like this that makes our city better; and if there is a data that shows that—and I hope your data will show that—it is going to make the city more motivated to do more renovations, and consequently improve lives”.
P4: “I’m part of PARCS study because I like to have a voice when it comes to my community, my neighborhood. Otherwise, I’m not allowed to complain when things go wrong. My husband and I are all about making things better for the community”.
P13: “Parks are about the future of our communities and neighborhoods. I feel like by participating in this study I’m making a difference for my city, I’m shaping the future of my city”.
P20: “So first I want to mention that I work close to the park that has been renovated, and when I saw them fixing up the park—which made me feel great to see that change in my community—I thought that by participating in the study I have something to do with it, I have a voice (…) I always try to do nice things for my community”.
P17: “I’m so glad to see the park being renovated in my neighborhood, because it is good for all of us, for our community. I would like to see more group activities organized in my park for the community to enjoy, like soccer game, concerts etc.”
P4: “I like the fact that through your study my voice will be heard, that I have a voice about my community so that my park stay modern and clean (…) I would like to see different events at parks that are good for the community, something fun for everyone, no matter how old they are, for instance a book swap—people come in and bring books that they have read already and they trade them for a new books or magazines”.
3.3. Theme 3: Connection to Self
P2: “I would say to anyone, go out there, get fresh air, run, walk, it is good for you, it is healthy—it is good for your health, your emotions, your body, soul, and mind (…). Parks are great places for relaxation; place where you can leave all the problems behind, connect with yourself, immerse yourself in complete rest and relaxation”.
P9: “Parks help people to stay healthy; now recovering from a serious condition, I spend a lot of time in parks, it helps me—you’ve got a bench, you sit down, you wander around the park, it is a good place to be at, to study—it is good to be out and about and have some fresh air. I use parks a lot”.
P10: “I hope your study will support the notion that being close to a park is good for your physical and mental health—because it is”.
P11: “For me being in a park is relaxing; it is about disconnecting from stressful life and breathing a fresh air, walking around, reading a book, playing with kids, just relaxing, enjoying the sunshine and forgetting about the city.”
P19: “It is important to me to get out of the house and exercise in a park, to get fresh air, I like when parks are colorful, playful, it makes you feel good”.
P17: “I love taking pictures in the park, it relaxes me. I take pictures of everything, a flower, a dog, a bird, a tree, the sun, the sky, the moon (…). It makes me thankful to be alive, appreciative.”
P2: “While the kids play, I sit down and enjoy my time, I look at other people, sometimes, I talk to other parents, or sometimes I go to the park alone—I take my dog for a walk and I enjoy that too”.
3.4. Theme 4. Connection to Nature
P16: “This life is very hectic so we need to remind ourselves to come back to green world, parks, and green areas in the city. Whenever I have time, I take my kids to the park and we are active”.
P2: “I think it is very important that more people go to parks to be close to nature—I see in the summer people bringing blankets, having small picnics, and enjoying the greenery around them”.
P5: “I love the parks because I love the trees, animals, birds etc.”
P17: “I love sitting in parks with the kids—they play and you look around, watch them, and the greenery keeps you calm; now we see a lot of buildings raising, but parks are more important to us”.
P10: “Right now for me parks mean play and time spent with my daughter, but later, when I’m 80 I’m sure it is going to be a place where I go and relax and spend time surrounded by nature, in a green space”.
3.5. Summary and Implications—A Human-Centered Framework to Understand the Potential Implications Regarding the Effects of Parks on Health and Wellbeing
Conflicts of Interest
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|1. Connection to one’s family, loved ones, and friends (e.g., “Me and my son go to parks to forget about the stress of life, to enjoy time together, even if it is just half an hour (…). My son and I use parks quite often—for us it is about family time”)||City parks provide participants with the opportunities to connect with their family members, loved ones, and friends.|
|2. Connection to one’s community and neighborhood (e.g., “Parks are about the future of our communities and neighborhoods. I feel like by participating in this study I’m making a difference for my city, I’m shaping the future of my city”)||Urban green space makes people feel connected to their local communities and broader physical neighborhood.|
|3. Connection to self (e.g., “Parks are great places for relaxation; place where you can leave all the problems behind, connect with yourself, immerse yourself in complete rest and relaxation”)||Parks constitute a space for reflective self-exploration that facilitate personal growth and enhanced self-concept.|
|4. Connection to nature (e.g., “I think it is very important that more people go to parks to be close to nature—I see in the summer people bringing blankets, having small picnics, and enjoying the greenery around them”)||Many participants consider connection to nature as an important driving force for visiting their local parks.|
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Swierad, E.M.; Huang, T.T.K. An Exploration of Psychosocial Pathways of Parks’ Effects on Health: A Qualitative Study. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 1693. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15081693
Swierad EM, Huang TTK. An Exploration of Psychosocial Pathways of Parks’ Effects on Health: A Qualitative Study. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2018; 15(8):1693. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15081693Chicago/Turabian Style
Swierad, Ewelina M., and Terry T. K. Huang. 2018. "An Exploration of Psychosocial Pathways of Parks’ Effects on Health: A Qualitative Study" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 15, no. 8: 1693. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph15081693