Many people dream of living near the ocean, there is a reason why, as coastal living may be good for mental health, according to a study by researchers from the University of Exeter, England.
The research builds on prior studies linking natural environments to mental health and well-being, and suggests that you may be able to boost your mood and more by choosing to live near the Sea.
In the US, counties directly on a shoreline make up less than 10% of total land area, except Alaska, yet 39% of the population resides in them. Further, more people continue to seek out coastal living.
According to the National Ocean Service (NOS), the population of US counties directly on the shoreline increased by nearly 40% from Y 1970 to Y 2010, and it’s estimated to increase by another 8% by Y 2020.
“Coastal areas are substantially more crowded than the US as a whole, and population density in coastal areas will continue to increase in the future. In fact, the population density of coastal shoreline counties is over six times greater than the corresponding inland counties,” NOS noted, and perhaps the boost to mental health is a Key reason why.
So, whether you live by the coast or inland, spending time in nature’s different environments is protective to good health.
A massive study involving data from 143 studies and more than 290-M people revealed that exposure to Greenspace, defined as open, undeveloped land with natural vegetation, led to significant reductions in diastolic blood pressure, salivary cortisol and heart rate, along with significant decreases in Type 2 diabetes and mortality from all causes and those specifically related to the heart.
Further, increased Geenspace exposure led to reduced incidence of stroke, high blood pressure, dyslipidemia, asthma and coronary heart disease. In those who are institutionalized, separate research has shown gardening, which necessitates spending time outdoors, promotes an “internal locus of control and well-being.”
A decrease in sadness and anxiety was noted among institutionalized older adults who gardened, while in general gardening by older adults is linked to:
- Feelings of accomplishment
- Well-being and peace
- A decrease in depressive symptoms
- A protective effect on cognitive functions
- The development of social links
With increasing research showing Green and Blue water spaces have much to offer for human health and well-being, it is not surprising that nature-based therapies are emerging as tools to improve public health.
A ParkRx, or Park Prescriptions, movement, created via a collaboration between the Institute at the Golden Gate, the National Recreation and Parks Association and the National Park Service, also exists. It involves a health or social services provider giving a patient or client a “prescription” to spend more time in nature in order to improve their physical health and well-being.
At least one study suggested that spending 120 mins or more in nature during the previous week was associated with a greater likelihood of good health or high well-being.
However, there were decreasing returns with nature exposure beyond 120 mins, and the association flattened out and even dropped between 200 and 300 mins per week, suggesting 120 mins may be a sort of Goldilocks zone for reaping all the benefit that nature has to offer, without overdoing it, if there is such a thing.
Not all exposure to Green or Blue spaces can be measured in mins, though. It may be that living near nature, whether it be natural land or water, yields the most benefits of all, by giving you easy access to its soothing effects and, perhaps, encouraging more walks and other physical activity along its trails and shores.
Even if you cannot see the coast from your home, living near water affords you the luxury, or necessity, of visiting it often.
So matter where you live, be sure to make spending time in nature a priority, and take advantage of its many health-boosting forms, from forests and mountains to rivers, wetlands and oceans.
Whether you are struggling to get your health back on pace, or just want to maintain optimal wellness, there are straight-forward strategies that can help you succeed in taking better control of your overall health.
Eat healthy, Be healthy, Live lively