Can the sea make you happier?

Take a moment to look at the photos below and see how they make you feel.

We all know that being around green spaces can have a positive impact on our mental health and wellbeing, but a recent study has found that living by the coast can be even better for you.

The study by the University of Exeter as part of the ‘BlueHealth’ research project examined the relationship between ‘blue spaces’– like green spaces but with the sea – and mental health and wellbeing.

The study surveyed nearly 26,000 people to analyse the wellbeing effects of being near the coast. It found those living less than 1km from the coast are 22% less likely to have symptoms of a mental health disorder, compared to those who live more than 50km away.

This doesn’t come as a surprise to me. I remember the feeling I used to get when I’d fly back to Jersey to visit whilst living in London. When the plane was coming into land, something would shift. I felt lighter and generally more relaxed. I’m not sure if it’s the sight of the ocean or the sound of the waves crashing, but I can definitely say that living by the coast makes me happy.

Of course, not everyone can live by the sea. As part of the BlueHealth project, researchers are looking into how they can apply virtual reality technology so those who are unable to access blue spaces – whether it’s those who are in cities, elderly people in care homes or those in hospital – can still benefit from them.

The team at University of Exeter have created a series of 360 videos which feature the Cornish coast and allow users to experience high definition ‘real life’ blue spaces – some being more relaxing and others more stimulating.

Commenting on the BlueHealth research, 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.”

You can find out more about the project here

Nadine Jagger