Dr Mathew White
Dr Mathew White
Environmental Psychologist and Senior Lecturer at the University of Exeter Medical School
“You might have a sneaking suspicion that natural environments are good for you, but is there any evidence to back this up? Well yes, actually, and the results from a growing body of research are beginning to shed light on how natural spaces can affect our health and wellbeing.
With a number of studies now demonstrating the positive effects green spaces can have on wellbeing, our research is also taking a closer look at coastal environments. In one example that used data from over 48 million people, compiled as part of England’s 2001 Census, we found that people were more likely to have good health the closer they live to the sea, and that this link is strongest in economically deprived communities.
We’re not yet sure on the specific mechanisms that contribute to this effect, but one reason could be the opportunities that these environments offer for physical activity and stress reduction. Water also seems to spur a sense of freedom and autonomy that people don’t get anywhere else.
Delving deeper, our research teams recently published results that showed western coasts in the UK have higher levels of sunshine - and therefore a greater prospect for the production of Vitamin D - so there could also be something physiological going on too. We’ve also found that people who live on western beaches are more likely to meet physical activity guidelines, so it looks like beaches could encourage exercise, which we know is a good thing for health."
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Visit www.ecehh.org for more information or watch the video that explains the science behind the thinking.