2.3.1 Recreation and Health

The value of parks as recreational space is widely recognised, as highlighted in the public survey findings outlined in Chapter 3.

Recreation is either passive (e.g. strolling) or active (e.g. sports), and generally suitable for all age groups and abilities. Parks also provide space to relax away from busy city living. Research supports the importance of green spaces on better mental health. The World Health Organisation (WHO), in its European Mental Health Plan, states actions under Healthy Places, Healthy Communities that highlight the importance of recreation and contact with nature for mental well-being.

Currently one of the most significant health concerns in Ireland and Europe is obesity and its associated health problems, including premature death and diabetes. Of particular concern is the rise in childhood obesity. The financial costs of these resulting health problems are also significant (€1.13 billion in 2012, Safefood).

Diet and physical activity are the key methods of combating this problem, the latter being assisted through the adequate provision of accessible public open space and recreation facilities. Over 17% of Dublin City’s land area is green space. The provision of playing pitches and playgrounds assists in the promotion of active, healthy lives through sport and play. The natural areas of the city landscape also allow people to have contact with nature, de-stress and relax.

Healthy places, healthy communities:

(j) promote healthy nutrition and physical activity for all age groups, through sport and other activities, and provide safe play space for children;

(k) promote the establishment and protection of healthy places outdoors and contact with nature;


Report extract: The European Mental Health Action Plan, World Health Organisation, 2008

In Ireland at the present time 39% of adults are overweight and 18% are obese. Of these, slightly more men than women are obese and there is a higher incidence of the disease in lower socio-economic groups. Most worrying of all is the fact that childhood obesity has reached epidemic proportions in Europe, with body weight now the most prevalent childhood disease.

Report extract: Obesity –The Policy Challenges, National Taskforce on Obesity, 2005.