Researches have studied the connection between health and living in coastal areas, and have found that there's been a slight improvement in mental health among people who live near the water. But, Michigan State's research claims they're the first to show an affirmative link between the two.
Picturesque vacation posts on social media always include the beach. Also, every holiday planning has to include a location by the beach or it doesn't count. There's something so soothing about the beach that we keep getting drawn to it like the waves that caress the shore. Just by being near the water tends to calm people down as they take in the whiff of fresh, salty air and let the sand run between their toes. There is a never-ending demand for those beach vacays with people flocking over to coastal areas like seagulls! Craving for a beach trip? Well, it may just be good for you, as there's now research that shows living near water may actually help improve your mental health, according to The Washington Post.
Researchers from Michigan State University have used Wellington, New Zealand, the urban capital, as its case study to evaluate residents who had a view of either blue or green spaces. Residents in coastal areas had the Tasman Sea or the Pacific Ocean (blue spaces) while inland ones were located near forests or parks (green spaces). It was reported that people who lived near the water had less psychological distress.
Several pieces of research have studied the connection between health and living in coastal areas, and have found that there's been a slight improvement in mental health among people who live near the water. However, Michigan State's research claims they're the first to show an affirmative link between the two, solely based on the visibility of water from a person's home. This does explain the sense of calm we experience when we go to the beach, right?
Originally, the intent of the research was to determine the effects of nature on anxiety and depression, especially in urban areas where there's a lack of natural beauty. Being near nature is known to reduce stress, and it's also been established that having a water body or large green spaces around the place they stay in promotes physical and social activity. That whiff of unpolluted fresh air is bound to make a difference!
“Green and blue spaces are recognized as therapeutic or salutogenic places and may lower psychological distress by serving as calming backdrops in residential neighborhoods,” the authors wrote. Researchers were able to compare mental-health statistics with the areas in which people lived using data from the New Zealand Health Survey. Surprisingly, they found that there was no significant benefit for people living near green areas, but the story was different for people who lived by the water.
Amber L. Pearson, the co-author on the study said, "Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress. However, we did not find that with green space.” She added he green space did not have the same calming effect. “It could be because the blue space was all natural, while the green space included human-made areas, such as sports fields and playgrounds, as well as natural areas such as native forests,” Pearson said. “Perhaps if we only looked at native forests we might find something different.”
The demographics were broken down further, by age, sex, and personal income, and they found that people living closer to the ocean showed an improvement in mental health. Having said this, it should come as no surprise that Hawaii is ranked the No. 1 happiest and healthiest state in America, according to the annual Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index. Of course, there are a few limitations to the study, as expected. The researches said the blue spaces in Wellington represent natural beauty better than the green spaces in the city.
Also, would the results be the same if the other blue spaces aren't oceans? “If the type of water is irrelevant, similar findings could potentially be evaluated on large freshwater bodies, such as the North American Great Lakes,” the authors wrote. “If the type of water is salient, this may relate not only to the visibility of the ocean but the other sensory stimuli related to the ocean, including the sound of waves and the smell of air passing over the ocean.” We all knew those repeated waves have a magical calming, effect, didn't we? So, if you can't really afford to move to a coastal area, how about planning for a vacay by the beach, stat?