Outdoor Recreation: People, Nature and Health

2nd March 2021



Outdoor recreation plays a vital role in Northern Ireland, bringing benefits to society by contributing to a wide range of areas, including improving health and wellbeing, protecting the environment, tackling inequality, growing and greening the economy, increasing active travel, and enhancing education and learning. These benefits are delivered by a range of organisations from government departments, local authorities to organisations in the voluntary sector, farmers and businesses.

Research objective

Although the benefits of outdoor recreation are widely evidenced, until now there was no systematic population-wide research on how people in Northern Ireland engage with the natural environment, the benefits they gain from it, and the barriers they face trying to access it, and; how this aligns with current and future policy development and implementation. The data collected as part of this research will help to address this information gap.

A new survey of the Northern Ireland adult population

Scoping studies were first undertaken to determine what population data already exists in Northern Ireland related to engagement with the outdoors [3] and mining and analysing this data [4]. Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI) then commissioned this new survey part funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to support the work of the cross-government Strategic Outdoor Recreation Group (SORG). ORNI partnered with 56 Degree Insight to design and undertake a survey of the Northern Ireland adult population in late 2020 to fill the information gaps identified. The survey approach is explained on page 15 and the full report is available from www.out-scape.com. Results from this survey include periods with varying levels of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions (outlined on page 15) and these will have impacted upon levels of participation in outdoor recreation.

This report

This is a summary document that draws on the November and December 2020 population research as the primary source, and this is supplemented by other sources of Government data, such as the Continuous Household Survey (CHS), Health Survey Northern Ireland, and the Travel Survey for Northern Ireland, to bring together the full body of evidence relating to people, nature and health.

Read the Report