Why it really is lovely to be beside the seaside

Eastbourne seafront
Eastbourne seafront

LIVING by the sea really is good for your health.

A two-year study into the happiness and wellbeing of almost 3,000 people across England has found that the majority valued the bracing sea air and sounds of the waves in towns like Eastbourne over the gentle bird song of rural towns and villages.

In a report presented to the British Psychological Society (BPS) this week, researcher Katherine Ashbullby and her colleague Matthew White found that people preferred coastal locations to every other type of outdoor environment.

And the upshot is that people who live by the sea tend to be happier because of it.

Mr White told the BPS members that the pair’s findings most likely reflect what he describes as an “innate preference” for the sights and sounds of water.

Their research looked at the emotional reaction people felt when exposed to a variety of different environments and found that being close to the coast was more likely to create a sense of calm.

The team spent two years sifting through data collected from 2,750 people who recorded their experiences visiting different locations.

They were split into six different age groups and the study found that regardless of the age of the respondents, the nature of their visit or other factors such as where they live or who they were with, the seaside experience came out tops for calmness.

It also revealed that people who were travelling somewhere alone were more likely to take enjoyment from the coast but could find no distinct clues as to why people prefer the sea to the rolling hills of the countryside of the bright lights of the country’s big cities.

Among the offered explanations are the preconceptions people have when heading to the beach – with many expecting to have a good time and relax while soaking up the rays – or the sights and sounds they find evoking fond memories of childhood days out.

And there is also the suggestion that people subconsciously respond well to the way sunlight reflects on water and the relaxing sounds creating by waves lapping on the shore.

Dr White concluded, “There is a lot of work on the beneficial effects of visiting natural environments, but our findings suggest it is time to move beyond a simple urban versus rural debate and start looking at the effect that different natural environments have on people’s health and well-being.”

A unconnected poll found popular south coast resort Bournemouth to be the country’s happiest town while Eastbourne locals have been lapping up the sky-high levels of sunshine for years.

It seems that England is indeed a country of people who like to be beside the seaside and that not only is a trip to the beach fun, but it can also be good for your health.