Childhood obesity, poor mental health and sleep problems linked to playground decline

New research with parents shows the devastating impact that the sharp decline in outdoor play facilities is having on their children’s physical and mental health.  The survey of 1111 parents with children aged between 2 and 12 has revealed:


  • 72% of parents of children with health issues such as obesity said that the lack of outdoor play facilities in their area has played a role in their children’s problems.
  • Over a quarter of parents surveyed with children experiencing mental health problems said that the lack of outdoor play facilities in their area has played a role in their children’s difficulties.
  • 26% of parents with children who have sleep problems say that a lack of outdoor play facilities in their area has played a role in their children’s sleep difficulties.

The *survey was carried out by Mumsnet – the UK’s biggest website for parents – and commissioned by the Association of Play Industries (API).  It asked parents about their children’s outdoor play and indoor screen time habits and revealed their growing concerns over children’s activity levels and the shift from outdoor play to indoor screen time.

It follows previous API research which uncovered an alarming decline in public playground provision due to local authority budget cuts.

Mark Hardy, API Chair, said: “Most of the parents surveyed say that playgrounds are vital in getting children outdoors and active again.  The overwhelming majority of UK children live in urban areas. For these children, and particularly those in the most disadvantaged areas, public playgrounds are their only chance for outdoor play.

“Free, outdoor play is absolutely crucial to normal development.  We are in danger of leaving entire communities without anywhere for children to play.  Couple this with the dominance of digital culture and the strong inducement it creates for children to stay indoors – inactive and alone for hours – children are facing a crisis with dire consequences for their mental and physical health.”

The Play Must Stay campaign is calling for urgent investment in playgrounds before they disappear for good.  “There is a national crisis going on all around us,” said Mark. “The savings made now in cutting play budgets will cost the taxpayer far more in the longer term.  The decline in community playgrounds is a significant factor in creating a generation of children experiencing obesity, mental health problems and sleep difficulties.”

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