Education & Family

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

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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