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There are very few people who don’t enjoy the benefits of going for a walk by the sea or looking out at the ocean from a sandy beach. Now, some new research suggests there is a reason for our age-old affinity with the ocean.
The research, published in this month’s issue of Health & Place, found that living in a residence with a view of the ocean was associated with improved mental health.
Researchers from the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Michigan State University looked at the visibility of blue and green spaces for residents in Wellington, New Zealand. Blue spaces were defined as water regions such as beaches and oceans, while green spaces were areas such as parks and forests. Although Wellington is a urbanized capital city, it is nestled next to the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean. The researchers then compared this topography data with information gathered from the New Zealand Health Survey, which was used to assess anxiety and mood disorders.
After taking into account other factors such as the people’s income, age, and sex, they found a correlation between people who had a view of the ocean and positive mental health.
However, while you may think that this effect was due to being near “the great outdoors” in general, the study specifically found that green space did not have the same effect.
In a statement, study co-author Amber Pearson explained why this might be: “It could be because the blue space was all natural, while the green space included human-made areas, such as sports fields and playgrounds, as well as natural areas such as native forests. Perhaps if we only looked at native forests we might find something different.”
The researchers hope to better understand this issue by conducting similar studies in areas that harbor other types of large bodies of water, such as the Great Lakes. Eventually, they hope that a more comprehensive understanding of our surrounding environment and its effect on our health could help guide more effective city planning.
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