People feel 'healthier' on the English coast

Beach Are areas like the Wirral coastline good for health?

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People living on the English coast are more likely than those living inland to say they are fit and well, an analysis of census data suggests.

The researchers said living in areas such as Skegness, St Ives or Scarborough was linked to a "small, but significant" improvement in health.

Lower stress and more opportunities to exercise were suggested as possible explanations.

The findings were published in the journal Health and Place.

The researchers looked at data from 48 million people in England from the 2001 census. They compared how close people were to the bracing sea air and their answer to a question about their own health.

The study was conducted by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health at the Peninsula College of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Exeter.

It found people living less than 1km from the sea were more likely to say they were in "good health" than people living further away.


The effect was small but the researchers said that when magnified across 48 million people it could have a large impact on public health.

The lead researcher Dr Ben Wheeler said loads of explanations had been suggested, although they had not yet been tested.

"One of the most obvious is the opportunity for physical activity or being more motivated to go for a walk along the coast," he said.

There are also ideas about 'being beside the seaside' being a more relaxing environment.

However, there is another explanation. Wealthier and healthier people might be more able to move to the coast.

"They are possibly moving to the coast and bringing their good health with them," Dr Wheeler told the BBC.

The study also found that people from the poorest backgrounds benefited most from a coastal home. There was little or no benefit to the most affluent people.

The study echoes others which have linked health to the countryside and urban parks. Dr Matthew White, who was involved in this study, presented research in April suggesting the coast was the most likely outdoor environment to create a feeling of well-being.

He said: "While not everyone can live by the sea, some of the health-promoting features of coastal environments could be transferable to other places."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 128.

    My Dad & Step Mum moved to Devon 6 years ago (10 mins from coast). Its put years on them. They prefer the slower relaxed pace of life down there - walks on the beach/cliffs, finding places for us to visit with them when we go there. My Dad has a part time job and they have immersed themselves in the local community. He also has not suffered from the severe Hayfever he has had for years.

  • rate this

    Comment number 112.

    7 years ago in Watford my daughter suffered respiratory problems everynight, however when holidaying in Bognor, the conditioned improved.
    So much so, we moved down there and never looked back.

    Bognor is safer, cleaner, less crime, less traffic and less stree. Lastly and most important my family is far more healthy.

    No contest really, just wished I moved earlier.

  • rate this

    Comment number 111.

    This report is a bit of a no brainer, although there is stress in any walk of life commuting to a city and having a more pressurised work environment is obviously less conducive to health than working away from such an environment. I think being near the sea would probably encourage more walks and healthy living so what is this report telling us that we don't know already?

  • rate this

    Comment number 107.

    I moved to Portsmouth 2 years ago to go to University after living in London for 18 years and I've really noticed the difference in terms of my health. My asthma has improved greatly and I'm always really motivated to cycle along the sea front, even with the strong coastal winds. In general I've found that I'm far happier and healthier on the coast than I ever was in London.

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    Does living by the sea have its benefits, yes, I find it restful listening to the waves along the shore line or the unique smell of the sea caused by the salt and seaweed, the air can be bracing and as they say can "blow the cobwebs away", but is it healthier, maybe to a degree, yet I lived in towns for 58 of my 65 years and was never ill or unhealthy in any way.


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