Blue areas: farming near the coast is associated with greater well-being (S)

How is the relationship between exposure to the natural environment and mental health? What can we do to benefit this relationship? In this article, we approach the topic from a scientific perspective.

Blue areas: farming near the coast is associated with greater well-being (S)

Last update: November 5, 2022

Contact with natural spaces seems to bring multiple benefits, either by increasing our ability to maintain attention, manage stress or solve problems. They also have a significant impact on the way we manage our emotions, which ultimately benefits our mental health.

Living near blue spaces has positive effects on the body through other variables, such as physical activity. In addition, these types of environments reduce stress and anxiety, while improving mood and psychological well-being. In addition, the positive effects of exposure appear to be usually sustained over time.

According to a new study, those who spent time playing near a lake or shore during childhood enjoy better mental health on average. Let’s go deeper.

Living near blue spaces favors greater emotional well-being in small children.

The advantages of growing up near blue spaces

Lack of exposure to nature during childhood appears to harm mental health. Enjoying this type of space in childhood is associated with greater subjective well-being and a lower risk of mental health problems. It is also associated with lower rates of schizophrenia and depression.

Despite these findings, the role of childhood exposure to blue spaces on adult well-being remains unstudied. Faced with this shortcoming, Vitale’s research, et al. (2022) decided to investigate this question using data from a survey (N=15,743) conducted in several countries (18) that focused on blue spaces such as rivers, lakes and coastlines. This study examined:

  • Especially blue spaces (coasts, rivers, lakes, etc.).
  • Associations between childhood exposure of adults to blue spaces, frequency of recent visits to green and blue areas, and subjective well-being of adults.
  • The role of children’s exposure to blue spaces on intrinsic motivations for spending time in nature.
  • The consistency of these relations between different countries.

To do this, researchers asked subjects to recall their experiences in blue spaces between the ages of 0 and 16. They had to clarify how close they lived, how often they visited, and how comfortable their parents felt playing in these environments. They also had to provide information about their last visit to these areas during the last four weeks, and about the state of their mental health during the last two weeks.

Children’s exposure to blue spaces and the well-being of adults

This research, published in Journal of Environmental Psychology, showed that subjects who remembered more experiences in blue spaces during childhood placed more value on nature, and also tended to enjoy less artificial environments more. They also established that exposure to blue spaces positively correlates with greater subjective well-being in adulthood.

“Our findings show that the potential benefits of childhood exposure to blue spaces may extend beyond motivational factors and frequency of recent visits to better subjective well-being in adulthood.”

– Vital, and al. (2022)-

These results highlight the long-term beneficial effects of these childhood experiences. Also, they point out the protective role that these spaces have against psychological problems in adulthood.

The findings clearly show us that introducing children to blue spaces can encourage an inherent joy in nature and promote people’s search for recreational experiences in the natural environment. This, as we have already seen, has great benefits for people’s mental health.

“In the context of an increasingly technological and industrialized world, it is important to understand how experiences of nature in childhood are linked to well-being in later life.”

-Vital-

Living near blue spaces in childhood has a positive effect on mental health in adulthood.

Everyone’s responsibility

In a press release University of Exeter, Mathew White, co-author of the study, said: “The current study adds to our growing awareness of the need for urban planners and local agencies responsible for managing our green and blue spaces to provide safe and accessible services to natural environments for the healthy mental and physical development of our children.”

Constant progress and development are an increasingly explicit call for preventive measures in terms of public health with the aim of shortening the distance between childhood and the natural environment. However, this is not only the responsibility of public bodies; Individual initiatives, especially parents and guardians, are also challenged by this same call.

Promoting children’s experiences in blue spaces can be a way of supporting the mental health of future adults, those generations who hope to have the opportunity to live and grow up healthy.

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