Coastal Living Is Healthy For You
July 18, 2012

Coastal Living Is Healthy For You

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

A new study from the European Centre for Environment & Human Health and the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry has shown that people who live inland are not as healthy as those who live along the coast.

Researchers used census data to determine how health is wide spread across the country. People living closer to the sea are more likely to have better health. Studies also showed that the correlation between living near the coast and good health was the strongest in most economically deprived communities.

The research included data from the 2001 census for England, from over 48 million people. Researchers looked at the proportion of people who reported their health as being "Good" (rather than "Fairly Good or "Not Good") and then compared this with how close those respondents lived to the coast. They also took into account the way that age, sex and a range of social and economic factors (like education and income) vary across the country.

On average, people living by the sea report rates of good health more so than same groups living inland. The authors were devoted to point out that although this effect is relatively small, impacts on public health could be substantial. Along with other studies the results of this work suggest that access to better environments may have a role in reducing inequality in health between the wealthiest and poorest members of society.

Prior research has shown that the coastal environment may not only offer better opportunities for its inhabitants to be active, but also provide huge benefits in terms of stress reduction. Another recent study, conducted in collaboration with Natural England, found that visits to the coast left people feeling calmer, more relaxed and more revitalized than visits to city parks or countryside. One reason could be, those living in coastal communities may attain better physical health due to the stress relief offered by spending time near to the sea.

Lead author of the study, Dr Ben Wheeler said  "We know that people usually have a good time when they go to the beach, but there is strikingly little evidence of how spending time at the coast can affect health and wellbeing. By analyzing data for the whole population, our research suggests that there is a positive effect, although this type of study cannot prove cause and effect. We need to carry out more sophisticated studies to try to unravel the reasons that may explain the relationship we're seeing. If the evidence is there, it might help to provide governments with the guidance necessary to wisely and sustainably use our valuable coasts to help improve the health of the whole UK population."

Dr Mathew White added,  "While not everyone can live by the sea, some of the health promoting features of coastal environments could be transferable to other places. Any future initiatives will need to balance the potential benefits of coastal access against threats from extreme events, climate change impacts, and the unsustainable exploitation of coastal locations."