The Contributions of Parks Commitment and Motivations to Well-Being


  • Steven E. Mock University of Waterloo
  • Mark E. Havitz University of Waterloo
  • Christopher J. Lemieux Wilfred Laurier University
  • Patrick Dylan Flannery NYC Parks
  • Paul F. J. Eagles University of Waterloo
  • Sean T. Doherty Wilfred Laurier University



psychological commitment, informational complexity, position involvement, park visitation motivations, parks and well-being, stress buffer


This research examined the degree to which commitment to parks and parks-focused motivations are linked to well-being, broadly defined. We draw on psychological theory that suggests that experiences that expand our sense of meaning and identity enhance well-being and act as stress buffers. Similarly, pursuit of social and spiritual motivations have been linked to well-being and are important resources for stress reduction. To test this, the association of psychological commitment, including informational complexity (i.e., participants’ degree of parks-related knowledge), position involvement (i.e., the degree to which participant identity is linked to parks) and motivations (e.g., psychosocial, spiritual, economic) with well-being (e.g., life satisfaction and self-rated mental health) was examined among a group of 634 visitors to two parks in Alberta, Canada. Further, we examined potential role of parks-focused commitment and motivations as stress buffers.  Multivariate analyses showed that the more park visitors valued informational complexity (i.e., the level of knowledge one has about parks), the greater their mental health. Further, greater position involvement (i.e., parks linked to identity) was associated with higher levels of life satisfaction. In terms of motivations, higher levels of spiritual/ecological motivations were associated with greater life satisfaction and greater psychosocial motivations were also linked better mental health. In terms of buffers, position involvement seemed to provide some relief from the impact of self-rated stress on diminished mental health, and psychosocial motivations helped lessen the association of stress with lower life satisfaction. Thus, the degree to which people are invested in their knowledge of parks, parks are a reflection of identity, and people have parks-focused motivations appear to have implications for well-being.  These findings are discussed in terms of the contribution of park visitors’ relationship to parks and well-being as well as implications for marketing and park management.  For example, the results suggest that educational programming may enhance benefits derived from parks visits by increasing visitor’s informational complexity and identification with parks. In particular, parks-focused education in childhood fosters life-long commitment to parks and protected areas. Further, those who seek to enhance parks visitation and public support for parks may want to highlight the importance of social motivations for visiting parks and potential stress buffering benefits. 

Author Biographies

Steven E. Mock, University of Waterloo

Department of Recreation and Leisure StudiesAssociate ProfessorDirector, RBC Retirement Research Centre

Mark E. Havitz, University of Waterloo

Department of Recreation and Leisure StudiesProfessor

Christopher J. Lemieux, Wilfred Laurier University

Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesAssistant Professor

Paul F. J. Eagles, University of Waterloo

Department of Recreation and Leisure StudiesEmeritus Professor

Sean T. Doherty, Wilfred Laurier University

Department of Geography and Environmental StudiesProfessor





Special Issue: Healthy Parks, Healthy People Part II