People living near the seaside have long felt it, and tourists have enjoyed it for years. But scientists only recently started exploring the health benefits of coastal areas.
Sandra Geiger from the University of Vienna led new research using data from 15 countries.
The results confirmed a common belief: living near or visiting the seaside boosts health, regardless of the country or personal income level.
Historical Perspective: Doctors Once Recommended the Seaside
The idea that being near the sea might improve health isn’t a new one. As far back as 1660, doctors in England recommended bathing in the sea and walking along the coast for health benefits.
By the mid-1800s, wealthier Europeans saw “taking the waters” or getting “sea air” as popular health treatments.
However, advances in medicine in the early 20th century led to a decline in these practices. Only recently have medical professionals started promoting them again.
The Study: Understanding Health Benefits Across Nations
The study was part of a project called “Seas, Oceans, and Public Health In Europe,” led by Professor Lora Fleming.
Geiger and her team from various universities surveyed over 15,000 participants from 14 European countries and Australia.
They asked about the participants’ opinions on marine-related activities and their health.
Findings: Coastal Proximity Improves Health For All
The study’s findings, published in the journal Communications Earth & Environment, surprised the researchers. Geiger, the lead author, found the consistent patterns across all 15 countries striking.
The study showed that living near or visiting the coast benefits everyone, not just wealthy people. While the associations were relatively small, they could still significantly affect public health.
Understanding the potential health benefits of coastal access for all is crucial for policy decisions.
Dr. Paula Kellett from the European Marine Board emphasized the importance of considering the significant health benefits of equal and sustainable access to coasts.
This should be taken into account when countries plan marine spatial areas, future housing needs, and public transport links.
What About Landlocked Residents?
And what about those who live in landlocked areas, like Geiger and her team in Austria? Geiger mentioned that Austrians and other central Europeans still benefit when they visit the coasts during the summer months.
Additionally, they are starting to recognize similar health benefits offered by inland waters, such as lakes and natural pools.
If you care about wellness, please read studies about how the Mediterranean diet could protect your brain health, and this plant nutrient could help reduce high blood pressure.
For more information about wellness, please see recent studies that olive oil may help you live longer, and vitamin D could help lower the risk of autoimmune diseases.
The study was published in Communications Earth & Environment.
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