Stressed and tired women, in need of a mental health boost, which is known to promote physical health, may want to consider a visit to the seaside. New findings from researchers suggest it doesn’t matter what you do once you get there or who’s with you. The coast seems to offer something special for mental health that urban parks and visiting the countryside can’t top.
Natural environments are known for boosting emotional and physical well-being, but until now, there hasn’t been any comparison between the benefits of getting out for a walkor relaxing with a book in an urban park versus a visit to the coast or countryside.
In a first study, Katherine Ashbullby and Dr Mathew White from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, and the School of Psychology, University of Plymouth studied data from 2750 English survey respondents, taken from a 2-year study about the benefits of being in a natural environment.
Any natural environment is beneficial
The results showed what researchers already knew – any natural environment is better for mental and physical well-being than being surrounded by concrete and buildings.
But when the researchers compared urban parks to visiting the coast or countryside, seaside was found to be the best for instilling a sense of calm, refreshment and pure enjoyment.
“There is a lot of work on the beneficial effects of visiting natural environments, but our findings suggest it is time to move beyond a simple urban vs rural debate and start looking at the effect that different natural environments have on people's health and well-being", Dr. White said in a press release.
There has been much focus on adding natural areas to urban environments, based on studies that show positive health benefits. ‘Green’ areas promote exercise and ‘naturally’ induce well-being and happiness.
A 2006 study, published in the British Medical Journal concluded:
"... the percentage of green space in people’s living environment has a positive association with the perceived general health of residents."
The finding was consistent regardless of distance traveled, age of the respondents, other activities undertaken or the presence of others. If you want the maximum benefits of a natural environment, the study suggests you can head to the seaside – take whomever you wish; even the family and in-laws, and plan to do whatever you want.
You’re more likely return the coast refreshed, calm and smiling, compared to a drive to countryside or a walk in the city park, regardless of who’s around, distance traveled or other activities.The study shows people really are happy by the sea.
British Psychological Society
April 19, 2012