The ocean is good for mental health

16 November 2020 | Posted in Ella Garrud , Marine
The ocean is good for mental health
Seven Sister © John Tyler

By Ella Garrud

Living Seas Officer

Many people may be finding this current national lockdown more difficult than the first one, now that we have shorter and greyer days, colder weather and dark evenings. My refuge when I’m feeling down has also been to go to the sea. I have always known that the ocean is good for my mental health, simply because I always feel better when I’m there. But is there actual research that shows the ocean is beneficial for people’s mental health?

There are in fact a number of studies which show exactly that. A study published in 2016 by Michigan State University found that there is a link between good health and people’s visibility of water, which the researchers termed ‘blue space’. The study found that people with more views of ‘blue space’, including the ocean, in their day-to-day lives reported lower levels of psychological distress.

Birling Gap©Peter BrooksSussex Wildlife Trust

Birling Gap by Peter Brooks

More recently, a study published in 2019 by the University of Exeter found that adults from the lowest earning households in the UK, who lived in cities and towns less than 1 km from the coast, reported better mental health than those living far from the coast. The findings from this study suggest that living near the coast could help mitigate health inequalities for those people from poorer backgrounds.

A number of other studies have also found that the ocean, and other blue spaces, is linked to people’s general improved health and wellbeing, better physical activity levels, improved psychological restoration and lower mortality rates.

I knew without these studies that the ocean was good for me, but it’s great to see scientific evidence to back me up. So if you’re feeling down this lockdown, get out to the coast and soak up that ocean goodness. If you can’t get to the sea, go to a lake, a river, or even listen to some soothing ocean sounds. Most importantly, look after yourselves and each other, and find refuge in nature where you can. 

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