Get yourself to the beach, a new study suggests, after finding that mental health is better among beach bums than inland dwellers.
Published in the journal Health & Place, a study analyzed national survey data of nearly 26,000 English people and found that those who live less than a mile away from the ocean were 22% less likely to report issues such as depression and anxiety compared to those who live about 30 miles away from the water, according to the study.
Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School also found that coastal living can be especially important for low-income households, who are 40% less likely to exhibit symptoms of mental illness if they live close to the water, compared to those at the same income level who live more inland.
The findings are especially relevant given the scope of the issue: Almost half of adults in the United States will experience mental illness at some point in their lives, according to the National Council for Behavioral Health.
“When it comes to mental health, this ‘protective’ zone” of coastal living “could play a useful role in helping to level the playing field between those on high and low income,” the study’s lead author, Jo Garrett, told British outlet BT.
Researchers also believe their analysis supports previous studies showing the mental health benefits of having access to nature.
“This kind of research into blue health” — meaning, the effects of interacting with natural bodies of water — “is vital to convincing governments to protect, create and encourage the use of coastal spaces,” said co-author Mathew White.
“We need to help policy makers understand how to maximize the well-being 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.”
Don’t have a beach house nearby? Just find any water, really. Previous research has found that being “near, in, on or under water” for any amount of time lowers stress and anxiety, boosts our well-being and happiness, and lowers heart and breathing rates, among other benefits, says marine biologist Wallace J. Nichols, author of the book Blue Mind.
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