Why liv­ing closer to the sea is good for your mental health

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - Times Trends - Sarah Young

Liv­ing next to the sea is good for your mental health, a new study has found. Re­searchers from Ex­eter Uni­ver­sity found that those liv­ing around half a mile from the coast are less likely to ex­pe­ri­ence mental health prob­lems such as anx­i­ety and de­pres­sion.

The team say the re­sults sug­gest the coast may act as a “pro­tec­tive zone” for psy­cho­log­i­cal well­be­ing and also high­light the im­por­tance of so-called “Blue Health” — the link be­tween health and the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

For the study, re­searchers an­a­lysed data on more than 26,000 Brits taken from the Health Sur­vey for Eng­land. The phys­i­cal and mental well­be­ing of the par­tic­i­pants was then com­pared to their prox­im­ity to the coast.

After ad­just­ing for ex­ter­nal fac­tors, the sci­en­tists found peo­ple who live less than a kilo­me­tre from the coast are around 22% less likely to have symp­toms of a mental health dis­or­der, com­pared to those who live 50km or more away.

For those from low in­come house­holds who live less than ak­ilo­me­tre from the coast, the im­pact is even greater with peo­ple around 40% less likely to have symp­toms, than those earn­ing the same amount liv­ing more than 50km away.

Pub­lished in ‘Health and Place‘, the find­ings sug­gest ac­cess to the coast could help to re­duce th­ese health inequaliti­es in towns and cities.

Jo Gar­rett, lead au­thor of the study, said: “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.”

En­vi­ron­men­tal psy­chol­o­gist Mathew Whiteadded: “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 and en­sure that ac­cess is fair and in­clu­sive for ev­ery­one.”

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