Escaping to nature during a pandemic : A natural experiment in Asian cities during the COVID-19 pandemic with big social media data

Research output: Journal Publications and Reviews (RGC: 21, 22, 62)21_Publication in refereed journalpeer-review

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Original languageEnglish
Article number146092
Journal / PublicationScience of the Total Environment
Online published27 Feb 2021
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2021


As global communities respond to the spread of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), urban residents worldwide have reduced their mobility, which may have incidentally kept people away from greenspaces. Surprisingly, anecdotal evidence suggests greenspace use surged in Asian cities. In this study, we used the COVID-19 pandemic as a natural experiment to investigate individuals' behavioral changes in greenspace use before and during the pandemic. We created a longitudinal panel dataset comprising Instagram posts from 100,232 users relating to 1185 greenspaces in four Asian cities: Hong Kong, Singapore, Tokyo, and Seoul. We found a 5.3% increase in the odds of people using greenspaces for every 100-case increase in weekly new cases. The models also revealed that people prefer nature parks that are large and close to city centers. In summary, because of the established physical and mental health benefits of greenspaces, people have been escaping to nature to cope with the pandemic in Asian cities.

Research Area(s)

  • Coronavirus, COVID-19, Parks, Social media, Urban big data, Urban greenspace