Long have us citydwellers thought we should pick up and move to the seaside for the sake of our mental health. Now there’s some proper scientific backing for that pondering.
New research suggests that those who live close to the sea have better mental health than those who live far from the coast. That’s regardless of their household income, so it’s not as simple as just being able to afford a home – there seem to be mental health benefits specifically from living nearer the sea.
Researchers from the University of Exeter used survey data from 25,963 participants and found that those who live less than a kilometre from the coast are 22% less likely to have symptoms of a mental health disorder than those who live 50km or more away. People in low-income households less than a kilometre from the coast are around 40% less likely to have symptoms, compared to those earning the same amount living more than 50km away.
We don’t know exactly why this is, but researchers believe their findings back up the idea that ‘blue spaces’ – like green spaces, but with the sea – can improve your wellbeing. Dr Jo Garrett, who led 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.
Dr Mathew White, 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.’ It’s important to note, of course, that the causes of mental illness are complex.
While the results of this study might tip the scales in favour of living by the coast, we can’t declare that packing up and moving to live by the sea is a magical cure for all mental ills. After all, it’s hard to be in the best mental space if you drastically change your life with no safety net in terms of a job, friends, and a place to live. If you’re struggling with your mental health, chat to your GP or a therapist before planning a big move.