Could how close you live to the sea have a positive impact on your mental health? For the first time, researchers from the University of Exeter have found that people from low-income background who live by the sea tend to have better mental health than their urban counterparts.
To find this out, they took data from the Health Survey for England from 26,000 people to compare the mental health of those living less than 1km from the sea, and those more than 50km away. After analyzing it, the researchers found that those living nearer the sea had significantly better mental health than those in urban areas as measured by the General Health Questionnaire (Garrett: 2019).
According to Dr. Joanne Garrett, who led the study, “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 (University of Exeter: 2019)."
With around one in six adults in England suffering from a mental health disorder such as anxiety and depression, and these disorders more common in people from poorer backgrounds, these findings suggest that living by the coast may help mitigate health inequalities. Thus, they may also have further public health implications (Garrett: 2019). The largest demonstration of the positive effects of coastal living according to income, given that everywhere in England is within 70 miles of the sea, the researchers are hoping that real interventions can be made to bolster the public’s mental health.
Dr Mathew White, an environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter said, “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 maximise 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 (University of Exeter: 2019)."
Garrett, Joanne K.: El Sevier