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National Parks boost health and wellbeing, report finds

Exciting new research carried out by academics at the University of York shows that for every £1 invested by the government, the North York Moors National Park generates approximately £7.21 of health and well-being benefits for visitors and volunteers.

The North York Moors is one of 10 National Parks in England, each of which receives a grant from the government. Until now, the return on investment for the government in terms of the health and well-being of people using National Parks has not been calculated. This research therefore marks a crucial first step in understanding how National Parks can best measure the true impact they have on those they engage with.

Richard Gunton, Director of Park Services, said: “It’s official; National Parks are good for your health! The report confirms that the activities we deliver not only have an overwhelmingly positive impact on the health and well-being of visitors and volunteers, but also a real value to the economy as well. The results will also help us advance our ongoing work and our commitment to improving the health and well-being of as many different groups as possible.”

Philip Linsley, Deputy Dean and Professor of Accounting and Risk at the University of York, who co-authored the report along with Robert McMurray, Professor of Work and Organisation, said:

“This initial analysis only looked at the health and well-being outcomes for volunteers and visitors to the National Park, and only activities funded through the National Park Grant from Defra. As a result, other groups who may experience benefits, such as school children, and activities funded through grant schemes fell outside the scope of this report. This means that the value of £7.21 is likely to be an under-estimate.

“It’s also important that we don’t get too hung up on the numbers. While the final figure is important, it can never truly convey what a National Park means to individuals, communities and indeed the nation. It’s therefore important that the result is considered carefully alongside the stories of what it means to be a visitor or a volunteer in a National Park.”

Jim Bailey, Chairman of the North York Moors National Park Authority said:

“It’s fantastic. This figure demonstrates the value of what we are contributing towards people's health and wellbeing, as well as encouraging visitors from all backgrounds to create thriving natural environments. I think in our hearts we know that visiting or volunteering in a National Park feels good, and this piece of great work condenses that into a figure we can build upon."

“As always there are challenges that lie ahead, and we look forward to furthering our duties and goals as part of the Government’s current review of National Parks.”

To read the full report, please visit

To find out more about the Government’s review of England's National Parks and how you can have your say, please visit


Media contact
Nina Beadle, Communications Officer
01439 772700

Calculating social return on investment for the North York Moors National Park

Social Return on Investment measures the social value created when organisations engage in activities and projects that make a difference to individuals and society. The calculation involved is not straightforward, as it requires researchers to assign monetary values to experiences and activities that are available through the National Park. For example, visitors to the National Park may take part in a physical activity that helps improve their health. For the purposes of this study, a value of £6.80 was given for this, which is the equivalent cost of a one-off fitness class at a local gym. This method was repeated for all potential health and well-being outcomes for volunteers and visitors, using data from the most recent tourism and volunteer surveys to calculate total values for the year 2017-18. A number of deductions were also made, for example, to reflect the fact that a proportion of visitors and volunteers would seek an alternative outdoor space or volunteering opportunity even if the National Park did not exist.

For more information, please refer to chapters five and six of the Measuring Health and Well-being report.

The National Parks review

Nearly 70 years after the country’s National Parks were first established, opening up the countryside and allowing more people to connect with nature, an independent panel is looking at how these iconic landscapes meet our needs in the 21st century – including whether there is scope for the current network of 34 National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and 10 National Parks to expand.

The review, led by writer Julian Glover, is also exploring how access to these beloved landscapes can be improved, how those who live and work in them can be better supported, and their role in growing the rural economy.

The public can contribute to the review and have their say on the future of our National Parks by responding to the Government’s call for evidence, which closes on 18 December.  

About the North York Moors National Park

The North York Moors is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, ancient woodland and historic sites. Created on 28 November 1952 it became Britain’s sixth national park. Covering an area of 554 square miles (1,436 square kilometres) the National Park has 26 miles of coastline, two national nature reserves, 840 Scheduled Monuments and over 3,000 listed buildings, attracting an estimated 7.9 million visitors a year.

The National Park has two visitor centres, The Moors National Park Centre, Danby and Sutton Bank National Park Centre, providing opportunities for cycling, walking, eating, picnicking, shopping, crafts and wildlife-watching. The centre in Danby also houses the Inspired by… gallery, which features regularly changing exhibitions by artists who draw their inspiration from the North York Moors.

The North York Moors National Park Authority works with a wide variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire, providing apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities with nearly 14% of staff being apprentices from local families.

To view other press releases and for further information about the North York Moors National Park, visit