Maslow’s Hierarchy of Need(ing Parks!)

Published by Sydney O'Connor on

It’s estimated that the equivalent of 20,000 football pitches worth of green space will be lost within 20 years in the UK alone (BBC, 2020), which includes parks and recreational areas. But why care, why not tarmac the lot?

If you studied a social science, you’re probably familiar with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs theory. If not, I’m about to save you £9K in tuition fees, plus the extra on pot noodles and 2L bottles of cider (I can say this, because I’m a student, and self deprecating humour is all the rage). 

Anyway, the theory postulates that the needs of people can be categorised into 5 stages, with each stage relying on the prior level being satisfied in order for the next to be realised. In layman’s terms, you cannot hope to be fulfilled socially if you don’t have food on the table, for example.

But can all the components of the whole hierarchy be fulfilled by parks and green spaces? 

Physiological needs

The most basic needs of all are the biological needs on which our survival depends. Not only do parks improve the quality of our air (Nowak and Heisler, 2010), but their availability increases the physical activity of those living nearby, by over 25% (Sherer, 2006). That being said, there is the problem that some green spaces are too waterlogged to use for sports, click here to discover how we want to solve this, and source renewable energy at the same time!

Security needs

One of the biggest barriers to children playing outside are fears of safety from parents (Early Education, 2015), so maybe it’s better for them to play Minecraft all evening? I’d argue not, as parks provide a safe place for children to explore, and research has also shown that neighbourhoods with more parks have less traffic and crime than their parkless counterparts (Active Living Research, 2011). Not only do parks promote physical safety, but financial safety also, with the value of your property increasing the closer you live to a recreational space (Espey and Owusu-Edusei, 2001). Cha-ching. 

Love and belonging needs

Parks are the perfect host for local residents of all backgrounds to interact and meet, cost free, whether it be at an organised event or a wave on a walk. The data backs this up too, where communities have more parks they also claim higher levels of community wellbeing (Larson et al., 2016). By the way, be sure to follow us on our Healthy Living Park page to ensure you don’t miss out on events in parks around Leeds.

Esteem needs

The exposure to green space is well documented in its positive mental benefits: it’s been associated with decreases stress (Thompson et al., 2012), depression and anxiety (Beman et al., 2014). Moreover, it doesn’t matter if you only spend a short time in your local green space, as that is just beneficial in improving your self esteem (Barton et al., 2009). Next time you’re on the way to work or the supermarket, why not take a quick scenic detour? 

Self Actualisation 

Self actualisation is the culmination of all previous needs, to a state whereby a person is able to achieve their full potential (Maslow, 1943). By offering elements of the other factors of needs, parks provide an accessible opportunity for people to become who they are, and achieve what they are capable of. If you’re interested in the multifaceted benefits that can be gained from parks, check out the reflections from the conference Your Back Yard co-hosted with Leeds Beckett University about green spaces contributions to our overall wellbeing.

Conclusion: access to quality parks is important for everyone, whether you’re after a quiet reading spot, looking for a safe way to meet up with friends or wondering where to explore on your next walk. At Your Back Yard, we recognise how important parks are for people’s mental and physical health, which is why we set up our Healthy Living Park scheme, to put on activities that encourage residents to move and mingle in their local green area. Parks can provide individuals and society with the tools they need to realise their full potential, making them a fantastic resource to communities which should not be overlooked. We look forward to hosting more events in parks across Yorkshire when restrictions are lifted!

If you enjoyed this read, I know you’ll love our blog on how community sport benefits the economy: https://bit.ly/2HYstpG

References

Active Living Research, 2011. The Potential Of Safe, Secure And Accessible Playgrounds To Increase Children’s Physical Activity. Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Barton, J., Hine, R. and Pretty, J., 2009. The Health Benefits Of Walking In Greenspaces Of High Natural And Heritage Value. Journal of Integrative Environmental Sciences.

BBC. 2020. Green Spaces ‘Must Be Protected And Enhanced’. [online] Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/52823058> [Accessed 16 October 2020].

Berman, M., Kross, E., Krpan, K., Askren, M., Burson, A., Deldin, P., Kaplan, S., Sherdell, L., Gotlib, I. and Jonides, J., 2012. Interacting With Nature Improves Cognition And Affect For Individuals With Depression. Journal of Affective Disorders.

Early Education. 2015. Overcoming Barriers. [online] Available at: <https://www.early-education.org.uk/overcoming-barriers#H&S> [Accessed 16 October 2020].

Epsey, M. and Owusu-Edusei, K., 2001. Neighbourhood Parks And Residential Property Values In Greenville, South Carolina. Journal of Agricultural and Applied Economics.

Larson, L., Jennings, V. and Cloutier, S., 2016. Public Parks And Wellbeing In Urban Areas Of The United States. PLoS ONE.

Maslow, A., 1943. A Theory Of Human Motivation. Psychological Review.

Nowak, D. and Heisler, G., 2010. Air Quality Effects Of Urban Trees And Parks. National Recreation and Park Association.

Sherer, P., 2006. The Benefits Of Parks: Why America Needs More City Parks And Open Space. The Trust for Public Land.

Thompson, C., Roe, J., Aspinall, P., Michell, R., Clow, A. and Miller, D., 2012. More Green Space Is Linked To Less Stress In Deprived Communities: Evidence From Salivary Cortisol Patterns.. Landscape and Urban Planning.

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