People really do like to be beside the seaside, study says

Seaside bench Researchers discovered people of all age groups found the seaside more refreshing than the country

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The songs and postcards appear to be right - a study suggests we really do like to be beside the seaside.

The study of 2,750 people presented to the British Psychological Society examined the effects of different types of outdoor environments on people.

Researchers found the bracing seaside air had a more positive effect than the countryside or an urban park.

Researcher Mathew White said it could reflect an "innate preference" for the sights and sounds of water.

The study examined how different types of outdoor environments could generate different reactions from people in terms of encouraging a sense of relaxation and calm.

Seaside rocks

This found that being beside the coast was significantly more likely to create a feeling of well-being.

The research, from the European Centre for Environment and Human Health, is being presented to the annual conference of the British Psychological Society.

The centre is part of the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry, set up by the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth.

The study, by Katherine Ashbullby and Mathew White, looked at responses from 2,750 people in England over two years, comparing their experiences of the seaside, countryside and urban parks.

While all of these could be refreshing, the greatest sense of pleasure came from exercising beside the sea - regardless of factors such as age, where they lived and who they were with when they were visiting.

The study found that in six different age groups the seaside was always identified as being a more positive experience than other inland parks or country walks.

This preference for the coast was found both in the general population and among walkers.

Those who were travelling alone were particularly likely to get more enjoyment from the coast.

There are no clear conclusions about why being beside the seaside should be more refreshing than other types of settings.

But the researchers are considering a range of possible associations.

This includes testing the idea that people respond positively to the way light plays on the water, or the sounds of the sea.

There could also be social or cultural expectations about the benefits of the seaside, suggest the researchers.

Or else there could be individual associations, such as happy childhood memories.

The researchers say that there has been a growing awareness of the importance of relaxation in preventing ill health - but there is not enough known about how this is experienced.

"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 versus rural debate and start looking at the effect that different natural environments have on people's health and well-being," said Dr White.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 109.

    I live overlooking the sea and it is like being on holiday 24/7. However, the smell of a dank autumn wood or the skylark on the summer open hilltops are now what I enjoy in a day out. Grass is always greener I know and so how fortunate we are that we can make such choices. UK is the best and then to add colour and texture to our homeland we have our seasons.

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    We're an Island race. Even when going abroad on holiday, we like to be by the sea - hence the popularity of the Costa Del Sol, Canary Islands, Florida, etc. Nowhere in the British Isles is the sea more than 60 miles away. We retired to a place 7 miles from the sea, (couldn't afford to live right on the coast) - just wanted to be as near as possible, 10 minutes to the nearest beach is fine.

  • rate this

    Comment number 65.

    I have always liked the sea, but only for short bursts at a time. I think living by the sea, much like living anywhere else, results in a form of apathy for your surroundings. Many people find that a break from their normal 24/7 lives is very soothing and a pleasure and this is often manifested in the seaside. I'm sure those living by the sea still have a holiday!

  • rate this

    Comment number 64.

    Brighton is one of the most laid-back cities in England with some of the lowest crime rates and least state intrusion. I'm sure it's no coincidence that it's right by the sea. In my experience, it's just such a liberating and reassuring feeling to know what direction you're facing in at any given time, just by associating it by where the sea is. Disorientation abounds in inland areas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 57.

    I'm not surprised by this although my personal preference would be to add "out of season". I love coast walking, having done the whole Hants & Isle of Wight coast. Walking round the Island off season in peace & quiet, just the sound of the sea and birdsong has to be better (and healthier) than the effort of walking through London crowds.


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