A new study has revealed that children who spend a lot of time at the beach or near lakes grow up to be adults with better mental health.
Research in 18 countries has found that spending time in “blue spaces,” such as near the sea or inland waters, such as rivers and lakes, can improve mental well-being.
Experts have been motivated to explore the potential benefits of blue spaces after mounting evidence showed that spending time in green spaces is linked to better mental health.
A survey conducted by the University of Exeter’s European Center for Environment and Human Health asked 15,000 people in 14 countries in Europe, Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and Canada about their childhood.
Participants were asked to recall their experiences in the “blue spaces” up to age 16, including how often they visited them, how close they were, and how often their parents allowed them to play in these areas.
They were also asked about their most recent contact with the blue and green spaces over a four-week period, and about their mental health over a two-week period.
Posted in Journal of Environmental PsychologyThe study found a link between spending more time in blue spaces and better mental health in adulthood.
This is because those who had more blue space experiences since childhood placed more intrinsic value on natural settings and were more likely to visit them as adults.
As a result, spending time in these places was associated with better mental health.
Valeria Vitali, a doctoral student at Sapienza University in Rome and lead author of the study commented: “In the context of an increasingly technological and industrial world, it is important to understand how experiences of nature in childhood relate to well-being in later life.
“Our findings suggest that building intimacy and trust in and around blue spaces during childhood may stimulate the joy inherent in nature and encourage people to seek out recreational nature experiences, with beneficial consequences for adult mental health.”
Experts also noted that many children may not grow up and spend time near water because these places can be dangerous for young people, and parents are rightly careful.
Dr Leanne Martin, from the University of Exeter, said: “This research suggests that supporting children to feel comfortable in these places and to develop skills such as swimming at an early age could have lifelong benefits that were not previously recognized.”