Mental Health Benefits of “Blue Space” Exposure

According to a recent study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, spending time in “blue spaces” — such as beaches, rivers, and lakes — as a child can have significant and long-lasting advantages for wellbeing throughout life.

People are more likely to return to bodies of water later in life and value their time spent in natural settings if they are exposed to blue spaces as children.

According to Mathew White, a senior scientist at the University of Vienna and one of the study’s authors, learning to swim and understanding the dangers of rip currents, freezing temperatures, etc., is of course essential.

The point we want to convey is that if youngsters are only taught about the risks associated with being around water, they can become too fearful of those environments as they become older and be unable to profit from them. “There are many benefits from spending time near water, not just in it,” according to the author. “The great majority of blue space trips — both for adults and children — do not include getting wet.”

Data from the BlueHealth International Survey for more than 15,000 people in 18 countries was examined by researchers from the U.S. and a dozen other nations to determine the associations between early exposure to blue spaces and adult wellbeing.

Participants talked about their pasts up to the age of 16, noting how frequently they went to blue areas, how close-knit they were, and how at ease their parents or guardians were with them going swimming and playing. Additionally, they talked about their most recent interactions with blue and green spaces during the preceding four weeks as well as their mental health over the previous two weeks.

Researchers discovered a link between increased exposure to blue environments as a child and improved adult wellbeing. They observed that the outcomes were uniform across all nations and areas.

Along with increased degrees of joy near bodies of water, familiarity with and confidence around beaches, rivers, and lakes, as well as a stronger predisposition to spend leisure time in nature during adulthood, adults also showed these characteristics. This thus improved their wellbeing and mood.

One of the study’s authors and a doctorate student at Sapienza University of Rome, Valeria Vitale, told The Guardian, “We recognise that both green and blue spaces have a good impact on people’s mental and physical health.”

The advantages of spending time in nature, including both blue spaces and green areas like woods, parks, and gardens, have been identified in an increasing number of studies in recent years. People’s levels of physical activity can rise in natural surroundings, which can also improve wellbeing and mood while reducing stress.

Along with recreational activities like swimming, fishing, and water sports, Vitale and colleagues noticed that blue environments in particular contain special sensory properties including wave sounds and light reflections that might elevate mood.

Because of the samples’ national representation, she added, “we believe our findings are particularly important to practitioners and policymakers.” “First, our findings highlight the need of conserving natural areas and making investments in them to maximise any possible benefits to subjective wellbeing. Second, our research indicates that actions and policies that promote more time spent in blue spaces as a child may promote later-life mental health that is better.

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