Almost everyone has the dream of living by the ocean. While much of America actually lives hundreds or thousands of miles from the coasts, that dream of the ocean breeze, the smell of sea salt, the sand between their toes, and fresh seafood draws most people’s dreams even if not their actual persons.
But, are there any health benefits to living by the ocean?
It seems that there are some, although in this area. This may be surprising since doctors have been prescribing trips to the ocean or seaside for centuries to help with the health of the sickly. Pick up any 19th-century novel, and you are likely to find at least one character that is off to or recently back from such a trip due to some ailment or another.
Still, it seems those doctors were on to something. First of all, there’s been some studies that suggest the ocean is valuable to our psychological health. People place more value on being at the seaside than they do at any other general location (say, a city or in the countryside), and that may mean that the ocean, at very least, makes us feel healthier, and the psychosomatic benefits should not be underestimated of that.
At the same time, a study in England found that those who lived by the sea were healthier than their inland compatriots. Other researchers tracked people’s movements and found a slight increase in healthiness for those who moved closer to the ocean.
All of this does suggest a pattern of at least better mental health by the ocean, but it is still limited. It’s not clear, for instance, whether the benefit increases over time, whether it is a single, permanent fix, or whether the change is temporary. Exactly how long a person should spend by the sea is not known.
Also unknown is whether the benefits are entirely psychological or if there are other benefits to be had by the sea. Is the diet better, on the whole, in seaside towns? Does the ocean air have some benefit for lungs? Such things remain to be studied.
There is also no comprehensive comparison of exactly how much benefit should be weighed against the risks of the ocean. Oceans, obviously, exposed people to more storms and more risk of flooding. Are such issues more likely to lead to a person having accidents and ill-health or do the benefits outweigh these concerns?
A final question would consider all the general problems in life everywhere and see if there is an improvement in general in oceanside areas. Do they have less, say, problems? And would this reduction, should it exist, be due to the climate or the level of affluence of the area?
As you can see, there are far more questions than answers at this point, but so far, the consensus seems to be that being by the ocean does offer some benefit to your health. Feel free to use that excuse next time you need a vacation.