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 52.

    I moved from Watford to be by the beach and would never look back. No sun ? its just nice being outside in the fresh sea air. Where we live Crime is lower and people are nicer. They actually say "hello" instead of robbing or stabbing you.
    Downside is when the stag doos , hen nights and tourists come down and ruin it. They might bring money but they also bring allot of problems.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    I completely agree with this as after losing both parents the first place I headed for was the coast and I can't explain why. I've been off work with stress and depression for the last 2.5 months and just moved to a beautfiul house on the beach and am feeling much calmer. The seaside just calms the soul. ;0)

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    Yep I just love being beside the seaside. I was born in Mauritius so the seaside is never very far away...The sea air, the breeze, swimming in the sea, walking on the beach, being carefree and the people you are with makes a lot of difference as well. There I go making myself homesick!!! But this is one of the main reason I miss Mauritius...

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    @1 @12 @37 - The hairless adaptation theory of the 'Aquatic Ape' struggles when you consider otters, beavers, shrews, seals, bears, water voles and rats or even the platypus. The pale / tanned skin hypothesis however may be interesting - our nearest relative, the chimpanzee has pale skin (when shaven!) Dark brown/black skin is a relatively recent adaptation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    @31 Really interesting post.

    I love the sea and was born on the south coast but have lived all my life in a London suburb. I very rarely go to the centre to look at the history, go to a show etc - in fact I hate the place.

    I guess this is all about greener grass - I'd love to be doing some fishing off the beach right now. House swap???

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    I'd agree with this, I love a windy day by the sea. Saying that though, I think it depends which part of the sea as well. I lived in Portsmouth for a couple of years, and while it was lovely in the summer, it was bleak in winter, the rain would be blown horizontally in from the sea, I still shiver when I remember it!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Although people like the seaside...they aren't sure why

    I can offer a solution

    It's much cleaner by the sea, the sea and the sea air kills bugs and bacteria and drives away pollution and pollen which makes it easier for your body to relax because there are less enemies to fight

    This manifests itself in that feelgood feeling

    In 10 years at sea I never met anyone who caught a cold either

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    '#24Give me the country any day!!!' - I'm inclined to agree. Surprised so many contributors feel this is stating the obvious. I associate the seaside with being uncomfortably hot or cold or windblown, and the discomfort of sand everywhere - and there's nowhere more gloomy than the seaside in the rain ...

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    I use to live near the sea as a child and I crave this as I reach my 50's... crashing waves, water over pebbles..Sand in sandwiches LOL...I miss it. My plan is to move abroad to achieve this in a warmer climate next year. In my twenties/thirties/forties I have lived in a land locked county and a lake/river was the next best thing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    Surely it depends on where the researchers and interviewees were when asking this question. The study took place in England. I am sure if you asked hillwalkers in the Scottish Highlands or Welsh mountains you would get a different result. Having said that reading some of the comments makes me want to go on holiday!

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    I live in Brighton and yes it is great. its even better as Brighton has such vibrant lifestyle and happiness boosting out of it it makes it even better. Its a completley different picture than the run down Italian ports.....

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    To those who say:
    1) the study is a waste of money or 2) The results are obvious; remember this is media (BBC) simplified academic research.
    Read the published paper and then comment on its validity, reliability and generalisability. The study referred to "the importance of relaxation in preventing ill health", an important field.
    You won't though as you bask in comfortable ignorance.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Property prices by lakes, rivers and the sea attract a large premium. In our hunter/gather past a lot of our food was sourced from lakes, rivers and the sea. Also travel by water was one of the easiest methods of travel. Any connection there?

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    My uncle lives in Southend two streets away from the Beach, he said he has not seen the sea for 5 years. He is to busy in his garden. Also got a cousin who lives near Southwould she only sees the sea about 5 times a year, as she works or to busy in her garden. The weekends are not the time to go to the Beach anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    I live in a little seaside town in North Somerset. I'm disabled so I can't walk to the beach and there's nowhere to park because of all the unnessasary double-yellow lines and Bristolians taking the spaces all day. When I do get there I still get excited in a childlike way.

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I wonder if human pleasure in the sea side stems from our ancestors quickly moving to a sea side habitat after coming down from the trees. It would supply abundant food and protection from land predators for creatures spending most of their time in water. Such a habitat might explain why humans lost most of their body hair – like other aquatic mammals – wet fur would slow a swimmer down.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Looks like their must be nothing of real news going on in the World Today, or the Jounos at the BBC are down the Wood Lane pub.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    I loves the seaside, me. I also like forests, mountains, hills... pretty much anywhere without buildings to be honest. I reckon we aren't anything like as evolved as we like to pretend and that being in a nature-rich environment like this makes us feel better in some indefinable way, because our brains and bodies feel 'at home' - I don't think it's just the seaside that has this effect.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    I live in a landlocked country in central Europe. I'd be interested to know if the same results would be found here. A lot of people I know would love to be by the sea, it may be due to the association of being on holiday, being away from the mad rush of daily life. To me the seaside also revives memories of childhood holidays, ice-cream and rock...endless summer days...

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Interesting to note the beeb use the picture of a dog on a beach to illustrate this story on the main page.
    Did you get it from the archives?


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