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Water Therapy

Can living near the ocean decrease stress and improve our mental health?

Water Therapy

Beachfront properties, homes by the sea and other abodes that promise even a glimpse of an ocean view, have always carried with them a higher price. We all know the feeling we get when our feet touch the ocean. Dipping our toes in the water, walking barefoot along sand, these are all sensations that calm and comfort, but a new study has revealed that ‘blue spaces’ can indeed improve our wellbeing.

The report, published in journal Health & Placefocussed on the ability for blue spaces to have a transformative effect on a person’s wellbeing – especially when it came to stress relief.

The authors were interested in identifying the potency of such a claim, especially in regards to crowded city environments. It’s one thing to live by the sea in a rural or country environment, but do the health benefits extend to those who live in concrete jungles?

The researchers began by pulling topographic information from national databases in New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington. They collated data that showed varying degrees of nature, from parks and coastlines to forested areas. Once this data was collected, it was merged with information from the 2011/12 New Zealand Health Survey (NZHS), which recoded the health and wellbeing history of the participants.

Whilst some of the findings were admittedly predictable, others came as a surprise to researchers: “Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress,” Michigan State University health geographer Amber L. Pearson said in a press statement. “However, we did not find that with green space.”

Even after taking into consideration participants’ sex, age, wealth and other environmental factors, the findings showed a significant increase in mental wellbeing as a result of being in proximity to water.

“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.”

Pearson concluded that further research could investigate whether or not these results translate to larger bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes.

 

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