Can Living Near Water Help Improve Your Mental Health?

Trending News: Link drawn between mental health and open bodies of water

Each winter, I try to escape the frigid temperatures of Chicago and travel somewhere warm, preferably close to the ocean. Examples include trips to the Caribbean, like Puerto Rico or extended stays in San Diego.

Until now, I never really questioned why I vacationed in these spots. When it’s cold, you want to be somewhere hot, you know? But a recent study appearing in the journal Health and Place by the University of Exeter has got me to thinking: Maybe being near open bodies of water is healing? Is that why I like going to these places?

The Study

Exeter investigators analyzed data from nearly 26,000 respondents living in England. What they discovered was amazing. Specifically, folks living in large towns and cities near England’s coastlines had better mental health than those living further inland, meaning away from the water.

Men’s Variety spoke to licensed mental health counselor Adam Kessler about the findings to gain his impressions. “The research seems to be in line with other scientific investigations that suggest blue spaces offer meaningful health benefits to people, particularly those who struggle with stress and anxiety.”

Blue spaces can be defined as places in urban settings that have visible signs of water. Examples include harbors, ports, waterfront parks, lakes, streams and canals. According to a variety of scientific studies, blue spaces offer people an opportunity to increase personal happiness while reducing stress.

The Exeter investigation compared the health status of folks in direct relation to their proximity to the coast; from people living less than a mile away, to those more than 30 miles away.

The results add to ongoing evidence that access to blue spaces – especially coastal living environments – may improve wellbeing and mental health.

Blue Spaces and Mood
Blue Spaces and Mood

Blue Spaces and Mental Health

Study leader Dr Jo Garrett feels this investigation may be significant. “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,” she says.

Environmental psychologist Dr. Matthew White at the University of Exeter offered the following: “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 maximize 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.”

Well, there you have it, folks. Living near the coast may be good for your mental health. And if you can’t live by the coast, spending time around bodies of water (like on vacation) may help to boost your spirits.

According to lore, water signs like Scorpio, Pisces and Cancer naturally gravitate towards the sea for centering purposes. I couldn’t tell you if that’s true (I’m Scorpio).

What I do know is this – whenever I look out on Lake Michigan from my home in Chicago or travel to a sunny beach destination, I experience Zen like healing. Sorry if I just got all woo woo on you.

Do you live near a coastal community? If so, what effects has it had on your mood and mental health?       

About John Lannoye 170 Articles
John Lannoye is editor and founder of Men's Variety. Based in Chicago, he blogs on topics related to health, grooming, wellness, relationships and men's grooming. Follow him on Twitter.