People who live close to the sea have better mental health than those who live further away, regardless of their household income, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the University of Exeter used survey data from 25,963 respondents in their investigations into the wellbeing impacts of being by the coast.
After taking other related factors into account, they 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.
Those from 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.
Published in the journal Health and Place, the findings suggest improving access to the coast itself is key to reducing health inequalities in towns and cities close to the sea.
Researchers say their findings add to the growing evidence that access to so-called “blue spaces”, particularly coastal environments, improves health and 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.
“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.”
Dr Mathew White, environmental psychologist at the University of Exeter, said: “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.”