Study shows we really do like to be beside the seaside

People are happiest when visiting beaches, rocky shores and coastlines, according to a new study looking at the benefits of being by the seaside.

Filey beach and seafront: Picture Richard Ponter
Filey beach and seafront: Picture Richard Ponter

Coasts have a therapeutic effect on people, boosting well being and mental health, a Defra study drawn from 46 peer-reviewed papers shows.

It reported that those living by the sea have better mental health than those who are further inland and do more physical activity in what is known as the “blue gym effect”, the analysis said.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

There is even a small effect on childhood obesity with youngsters living by the sea in coastal rural areas and smaller towns and cities slightly less likely to be obese (0.68 per cent lower).

Coastdwellers have higher levels of Vitamin D from higher UV exposure, and generally report higher levels of general health compared to those living further away.

People are "happiest when spending time in marine and coastal margins, in comparison to other natural environments in the UK", it states.

Retired coastguard John Haxby, from Filey, said: “It’s a nice, peaceful environment, the pace of life is slower.

“You have seven miles of beach to walk on and all the scenery and beauty that brings – Flamborough Head to the south and Filey Brigg to the north, and a nice calm bay between.”

Mal Nicholson, owner of the Grimsby-based replica of Lord Nelson’s famous messenger ship HMS Pickle, said the sea was a “tranquil and uncluttered space where you can collect your thoughts and leave the humdrum of normal life behind.”

In England, 271m coastal recreational visits are made a year, and over a third of the UK population live within 5km of the coast.

Hull-based historian Dr Robb Robinson, said: “People have been flocking to the coast for 250 years – Scarborough is arguably the oldest coastal resort.

"In the late 17th century they were writing books about its great benefits, the spa waters and the air. We have a natural predilection to the sea.*

However the review warns that human activity and climate change means the coastal environment is facing an “unprecedented” challenge from factors including pollution, as well as rising seas and flooding.

Nearly 1m homes in England and Wales are forecast to be at significant risk of tidal flooding by 2080.

The review was done in collaboration with Exeter University and Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

Head of science for sea and society at Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Professor Nicola Beaumont, said: “With millions of us visiting the coast every year, it is our collective responsibility to ensure that we have the right measures in place to allow our marine environment to thrive.”