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.


According to scientists, living near the sea could support better mental health in England’s poorest communities.

Read more about mental health:

Researchers from the University of Exeter used survey data from 25,963 respondents in their investigations into the wellbeing effects of being by the coast. After taking other related factors into account, they found that living in large towns and cities near the coastline is linked with better mental health for those in the lowest earning households.

The research suggests those who live less than a kilometre from the coast are around 22 per cent less likely to have symptoms of a mental health disorder than those who live 50km or more away.

What is depression?

Depression is a condition that affects your mental health. People who suffer from depression may experience intense feelings of hopelessness, anxiety and negativity for an extended period of time. Depression can present itself forms such as seasonal depression and persistent depressive disorder.

Symptoms include sleeping problems, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, changes in appetite and suicidal thoughts. Medical treatment includes antidepressants such as Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, while cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can be an alternative to drugs.

Those from low income households less than a kilometre from the coast are around 40 per cent less likely to have symptoms, compared to those earning the same amount living more than 50km away.

Around one in six adults in England suffer from mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression, and these are far more likely in people from poorer backgrounds.

Published in the Health and Place journal, the findings suggest access to the coast could help to reduce these health inequalities in towns and cities close to the sea. The research used data from the Health Survey for England and compared people’s health to their proximity to the coast.

The beach and shoreline at West Runton village, Norfolk © Chris Radburn/PA
The beach and shoreline at West Runton village, Norfolk © Chris Radburn/PA

Researchers say their findings add to the growing evidence that access to blue spaces—particularly coastal environments—might improve 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: “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.”


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Sara RigbyOnline staff writer, BBC Science Focus

Sara is the online staff writer at BBC Science Focus. She has an MPhys in mathematical physics and loves all things space, dinosaurs and dogs.