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Measuring blue space visibility and 'blue recreation' in the everyday lives of children in a capital city

Summary


Efforts by schools to increase blue space exposure could make a valuable contribution to equitable health promotion

The aim of this study was to quantify and understand trends in blue space visibility and blue recreation in the everyday lives of children in the Wellington region of New Zealand. Blue spaces are water bodies, such as lakes, ocean, and streams. Blue recreation is defined as personal engagement with water and includes such activities as swimming, fishing, and walking along a river.

This study used data from Kids Cam, a larger study of the world in which children live and their interactions with it. A total of 166 children living in Wellington were randomly selected from the Kids Cam database to participate in this study. This database provided background information about the children, including age, gender, ethnicity, household deprivation, and residential proximity to the coastline.

The researchers for this study used additional data obtained from cameras worn by the children over a two-day period. Of the 749,389 images analyzed, 24,721 (3.6%) included blue space. Twenty-three blue recreation events were identified. Neither visual exposure nor participation in blue recreation differed by ethnicity, weight status, household deprivation, or residential proximity to the coastline. There were significant differences, however, in both visual exposure and blue recreation based on where the children attended school. Children from the most deprived schools had significantly higher rates of blue space exposure than children from low deprivation schools.

The findings from this study were surprising in several ways. Despite living on an island where exposure to blue space would be expected to be high, the children in this study were exposed to it only 3.6% of the observed time. Additionally, since higher land values are often observed in coastal areas, it was expected that children from higher-income homes would have more exposure to blue space. The opposite was true, indicating that childhood exposures to blue space may not follow the expected income inequality trends observed among adults.

This study found high rates of blue space exposures during the weekday, in the morning, with peers, and while at school. These findings suggest that schools may play an important role in promoting equitable blue space exposure. As previous research indicates that exposure to blue space is positively associated with physical and mental health, efforts by schools to increase blue space exposure could also make a valuable contribution to equitable health promotion.

Citation

Pearson, A.L., Bottomley, R., Chambers, T., Thornton, L., Stanley, J., Smith, M., Barr, M., Signal, L., (2017). Measuring blue space visibility and 'blue recreation' in the everyday lives of children in a capital city. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14(6), 563.

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