BLue Spaces Lead to Mental Health

A recent study suggests that children who spend more time in blue spaces likely to have better mental health as an adult.

The news isn’t all blue.

Childhood days spent on the beach, or around rivers, can have significant benefits for our mental health and wellbeing in adulthood, according to a study.

Key points:

  • More than 15,000 participants across 18 countries recalled their experiences with blue spaces between the ages of 0 and 16
  • Childhood experiences with coasts, rivers and lakes were linked to good health in adulthood
  • Learning to swim at an early age can have life-long benefits, the authors suggest


The study found that individuals who recalled childhood experiences in blue spaces, such as coasts, rivers and lakes, placed greater value on natural settings and revisited them as adults.

More than 15,000 participants across 18 countries were surveyed for the study, which was published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology by researchers at the University of Exeter.

Respondents were asked to recall their experiences with blue spaces between the ages of 0 and 16 years, including:

  • How often they visited such spaces
  • How local they were
  • How comfortable their parents/guardians were about allowing them to swim and play in these settings


They were also asked to quantify their recent contact with green and blue spaces over the previous four weeks, as well as the status of their mental health during the previous two weeks.

The authors raised that previous studies on this phenomenon have tended to focus on “nature'” alone, which is typically represented by parks, green spaces and woodlands.

However, the study’s lead author, Valeria Vitale — a PhD candidate at Sapienza University of Rome — said their findings suggest that “building familiarity and confidence in and around blue spaces during childhood may stimulate an inherent joy of nature”.


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