Men’s experiences of outdoor recreation in New Zealand
Thesis DisciplineHealth Sciences
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Health Sciences
The health and wellbeing benefits that result from exposure to natural environments through various outdoor recreational activities are the subject of ongoing investigation. Within the resulting interdisciplinary literature, the impact of specific outdoor recreational activities for men’s health and wellbeing is less well understood. This research examined the experiences of men who enjoy fishing and/or tramping in the New Zealand outdoor environments, and the role that these outdoor activities fulfilled in their lives.
A qualitative descriptive approach using semi-structured interviews and open-ended questions was used to document the experiences of 10 men who undertook tramping or fishing excursions on a regular basis. A thematic analysis approach identified five key themes in their responses. Participants experienced health-related benefits across the physical, mental/psychological, social, personal development, and self-actualization domains. The reduction of stress was a prominent experience for all participants. In addition, the early life influence of fathers, families, close friends, schools, and youth group programmes was found to be instrumental in men developing committed and enduring healthy attitudes to natural environments, and to their pursuit of outdoor recreational activities.
There are ample opportunities for further research into the significance of outdoor recreation in natural environments for men’s health in New Zealand. Such research might employ longitudinal approaches to measure the permanence of improved health and wellbeing outcomes for men who regularly participate in specific outdoor recreational activities (e.g. camping, tramping, fishing, hunting, biking, diving, skydiving, water skiing and canoeing/kayaking). The accessibility and affordability of outdoor recreation for men warrants further investigation, particularly for men from lower socio-economic households, minority ethnic groups, and those with disabilities. Future research might also investigate the significance of regular early life exposure to outdoor recreational activities for the health and wellbeing of male teenagers, and whether any positive effects of early life exposure might transfer into adulthood. Research in these and related areas has the potential to deepen our understanding of the role that regular participation in outdoor recreational activities in natural environments can play for men’s health and wellbeing.