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Posted on Oct 02, 2019, 4 p.m.

Living near a coast or in a coastal area has been linked to improved mental health in a recent study conducted by the University of Exeter, this study is one of the most comprehensive investigations into the mental health effects of living near the sea.

Spending time at a beach or shoreline helps people to relax in a variety of ways from spending quiet time enjoying the tranquil views, meditating with the serene sunrise, playing games, to taking a brisk swim. This study has found that living close to the coast may have long lasting benefits and supports better overall mental health.

Findings may be useful to those that have a hard time finding or affording resources to improve mental health. Data was analyzed from close to 26,000 respondents in England, after accounting for possible contributing factors it was concluded living in a large town or city close to the coast is linked to improved mental health among those in the lowest earning households. 

As published in the journal Health and Place 1 in 6 adults in England suffer from mental conditions including anxiety or depression, and it is suspected that there is likely even more people living in poorer areas suffering from conditions that go unreported and unaccounted for. 

National survey data was utilized to compare respondent’s health to proximity to the coast; those living as close as 1.9 miles away and those as far as 31 miles away from the coast were considered. Findings support the growing base of research indicating that close proximity to blue spaces can help to improve overall health and wellbeing; the researchers believe that greater access to the coast could make a significant difference in mental health statistics.

“Our research suggests, for the first time, that people in poorer households living close to the coast experience fewer symptoms of mental health disorders. When it comes to mental health, this ‘protective’ zone could play a useful role in helping to level the playing field between those on high and low income,” comments Dr. Jo Garrett, the study’s leader, in a release.

“This kind of research into blue health is vital to convincing governments to protect, create and encourage the use of coastal spaces. We need to help policy makers understand how to maximize the wellbeing benefits of ‘blue’ spaces in towns and cities and ensure that access is fair and inclusive for everyone, while not damaging our fragile coastal environments,” explains Dr. Matthew White, an environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter. 

Officials from England are currently working towards opening full access to England’s Coast Path; almost everywhere in England is about 70 miles from the coast, expanded access should make it easier than ever for citizens to enjoy the benefits of spending time near the coast. 

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