“Our research suggests, for the first time, that people in poorer households living close to the coast experience fewer symptoms of mental health disorders,” said Jo Garrett, who led the study, which was published in the journal Health and Place. “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.”
Mathew White, environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter, added: “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.”
This isn't the first time scientists have researched the effect of "blue spaces" — natural aquatic features such as lakes, rivers and coastal waters — on individuals.
According to Psychology Today, researchers around the globe have studied the psychological response to blue space. They found: A 2018 study from Hong Kong showed that people who regularly visited blue spaces in their free time reported greater well-being, compared to those who didn’t make such visits. They also had a lower risk of depression. Likewise, another recent study, this one from Ireland, found that better views of the sea were associated with lower depression scores in older adults.
A review of 35 earlier studies, led by researchers at the Barcelona Institute for Global Health, showed that interacting with blue spaces had a positive impact on mental health and stress reduction. Being around blue space was also linked to greater physical activity—and that, in itself, can help further enhance well-being and reduce the risk for depression.
Some studies have focused on how participating in outdoor aquatic activities (such as fly-fishing, kayaking, and surfing) may help people with specific health challenges (such as post-traumatic stress disorder, drug and alcohol addiction, and breast cancer). Overall, the studies suggested that many participants benefited both psychologically and socially.