• Researchers surveyed thousands of people from 15 countries
  • Living near or visiting the seaside is associated with better self-reported general health
  • "Visiting the coast can still have substantial effects on population health," study lead author Sandra Geiger

Does going to the seaside really have benefits for health? Researchers say it may actually have, regardless of country or personal income.

For their study, which was published Wednesday in Communications, Earth & Environment, a team of researchers looked at the link between coastal visits or one's home's proximity to the coast and general health.

People have been considering the seaside as a place to heal and revitalize for centuries. Doctors in England have been prescribing sea bathing and coastal walks for health since the 1600s, according to the University of Vienna. By the 1800s, this was already quite common among wealthy Europeans.

"Societies value the marine environment for various reasons, including its health-promoting potential," the researchers wrote, citing possible reasons such as reduced exposure to environmental hazards and having more opportunities for physical activities.

However, some still consider the evidence to support the health benefits of exposure to blue spaces "insufficient."

To shed light on the matter, researchers looked at the relationship between coastal proximity or visit and self-reported health across 14 European countries and Australia by surveying 15,179 respondents.

The results were consistent: living near the coast or visiting there more often was actually associated with better self-reported health. This was regardless of the country or personal income of the participants.

In other words, it's not just those who are wealthy who benefit from visiting or living near the sea.

"It is striking to see such consistent and clear patterns across all 15 countries. We also now demonstrate that everybody seems to benefit from being near the seaside, not just the wealthy," study lead author Sandra Geiger, of the University of Vienna, said in a news release. "Although the associations are relatively small, living near and especially visiting the coast can still have substantial effects on population health."

Having access to the coast could then be a possible means to promote public health, the researchers said. The relationship, however, isn't exactly the same across incomes as it is "not the strongest" among those with low household income.

"These findings challenge widespread assumptions that access to coastal environments can reduce income-related health inequalities," researchers wrote.

The results show how public access to coasts may confer benefits for all. However, policymakers shouldn't "expect coastal access to reduce existing inequalities," the researchers said.

"The substantial health benefits of equal and sustainable access to our coasts should be considered when countries develop their marine spatial plans, consider future housing needs, and develop public transportation link," said Dr. Paula Kellett of the European Marine Board, who was also one of the study authors.

Beach, Water, Sea, Shore, Waves,
Pictured: Representative image of waves crashing on the shore. Pexels/Pixabay