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 72.

    How very British of the BBC.

    Syrian mass-murders, Norwegian mass-murders, Qatada's human rights, Men at Work flautist dies - and we get to comment on the British seaside experience.


  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    I live by the sea after years 'inland' because I love to walk along the seafront, listen to the sound of the sea and like the smell of the sea (caused by seaweed, not the sea), its bracing, but, where I live has its drawbacks, I live between the sea and a working river, so lots of smelly boats and noises from the shipyards dampen the enjoyment sometimes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    When I was a child and suffered with eczemea, I always loved the summer holidays and going to the seaside. The sea air cleared my eczemea up - until I went home again - sigh!

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    #18 Semisatanic

    "There's not much work here but its a small price to pay"

    mmm...I'm sure those searching for work in coastal towns don't see it in quite the same way. Part of the reason I didn't go back home to my parents after Uni, although I fully enjoy going back with my son now in the summer.

  • rate this

    Comment number 68.

    I've lived in cities, country side and by the sea. The best thing I find about the sea is that there are points you can look out too and see no people stuff (buildings, pylons, even coppicing). You can really turn your back on the world for a moment. In a word - tranquil

  • rate this

    Comment number 67.

    Lived in Blackpool since I was 6 months old. On a sunny day, there is nowhere else I'd rather be than by the seaside. No better place to relax than on the beach, watching the waves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 66.

    16. DisgustedTW
    "Brighton's endemic drugs problem"

    Oh dear, this tiresome line again.

    Brighton does not have an 'endemic drug problem'. It just has its priorities in the right place and has realised there's no point in wasting money trying to save people from themselves.
    Brighton also has the lowest murder and violent crimes rates of any city in the United Kingdom. I know which I prefer.

  • 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 63.

    I moved from Watford to be by the beach and would never look back.
    Moving from Watford to, well anywhere else, is probably a decent idea.

  • rate this

    Comment number 62.

    I just love the way how experts get paid to work out what everyone else knows as common sense.

    If someone gives me a million pound grant, I promise to go away and study whether drinking water is necessary for survival.

  • rate this

    Comment number 61.

    i can tell you the seaside is lovely the wild weather and the total difference off living than living inland, fresh fish fresh air and wild and wonderfull coast lines,the british coast is the best in the world

  • rate this

    Comment number 60.

    I love the sea and the coast. I would love to live beside the sea with the sound of the surf when i wake and fall asleep. The sea is never the same on a daily basis, there is always something new to see. One day i'll will live there. I live 12 miles away now but need at least one weekly fix with a visit.

  • rate this

    Comment number 59.

    Who'd have guessed, eh? People like being beside the seaside. Science is so full of surprises isn't it?

    Next they'll be telling us there's a link between Catholicism and the Papacy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 58.

    Shame then courtesy of the Government's Caravan tax,that less people will be able to afford to enjoy it.

    Cripple an industry in an area of high unemployment and raise the cost of holidays for the poor, while undermining coastal economies, at one stroke, a true genuine Tory triple whammy.

    Still not a problem if you have 6 Overseas holidays a year like the PM and Chancellor!
    All in it together.

  • 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.

  • rate this

    Comment number 56.

    "I Do Like To Be Beside The Seaside" is a popular British music hall song. It was written in 1907 by John A. Glover-Kind

    Did they have studies way back then?

  • rate this

    Comment number 55.

    lol. nice research.
    How about next time somebody will follow a blood pressure, or blood sugar over a period of time or maybe some hormones levels... ?

    I do enjoy though the sea (living inland).
    Maybe it has something with the negative ions. Maybe there's the holiday feeling, the openness.

    Are those researchers reading the comments here?

  • rate this

    Comment number 54.

    My mum lives by the sea on the Isle of Sheppey and has been trying to sell for years; if anyone wants to live by the sea and sand, let me know and perhaps you can achieve this desire!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 53.

    We are clearly happier by the sea (mountain, lakes, rivers also) or we wouldn't pay huge sums to spend our leisure time in those places. They are all large reminders of the power of nature and we are an animal and nothing more. Perhaps we have sentenced ourselves to a prison term in the jail of our own arrogance.


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