Being able to see the ocean from your home may reduce stress, new research finds.
“Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress,” says Amber L. Pearson, assistant professor of health geography and a member of Michigan State University’s Water Science Network. “However, we did not find that with green space.”
Using various topography data, the researchers studied the visibility of blue and green spaces from residential locations in Wellington, New Zealand, an urban capital city surrounded by the Tasman Sea on the north and the Pacific Ocean on the south. Green space includes forests and grassy parks.
To gauge psychological distress, the researchers analyzed data from the New Zealand Health Survey. The national survey used the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, or K10, which has proven to be an accurate predictor of anxiety and mood disorders. Mental health disorders are the leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the World Health Organization.
Even after taking into account residents’ wealth, age, sex, and other neighborhood factors, the study found that having a view of the ocean was associated with improved mental health.
Pearson says that visibility of green space did not show the same calming effect. That could be because the study did not distinguish between types of green space.
“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,” Pearson says. “Perhaps if we only looked at native forests we might find something different.”
Like most wealthy countries, New Zealand is highly urbanized, meaning effective city planning is increasingly important, Pearson says. Designating a proportion of high-rise buildings or affordable homes in locations with ocean views could potentially promote mental health.
Pearson says future research could investigate whether the findings hold true for large fresh bodies of water such as the Great Lakes.
The study appears in the journal Health & Place.
Source: Michigan State University