Researchers at two leading Westcountry institutions have teamed up with Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) in a study that shows that spending time in marine and coastal environments has positive benefits on health and well-being.
The review, held in collaboration with Plymouth Marine Laboratory and the University of Exeter and funded by Defra and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), reveals that visits to marine and coastal areas with designated or protected status and those with higher levels of biodiversity are associated with higher levels of calmness, relaxation and revitalisation, compared to locations without this status.
This project has synthesised research from a range of studies in recent years and identified that people who live by the sea gain in well-being and health benefits. Research conducted in the region found that South West beaches encourage families to be physically active and increase social and family interactions. Coastal activities such as beach cleaning, rock-pooling and walking were linked to a positive mood, more pro-environmental intentions such as recycling, and higher marine awareness. A national study concluded that people living in the South West are more likely than residents in other regions to swim or take part in watersports when visiting the coast.
In England, 271 million recreational visits are made to coastal environments annually and the report shows that regional variations exist, with more visits to coastal environments made by people living in the south-west and north-east compared to London, where more visits were made to urban open spaces.
The report also found that degraded marine environments may reduce recreational opportunities and result in emotional upset, indicated by feelings of sadness and anger and, therefore, reduce the well-being benefits of visiting such an area.