A new survey from the UK’s leading leisure operator Better has revealed that 89% of Britons feel positive benefits of being near water, whether that is improving their mental health, lifting their mood, or calming their anxiety. In fact, one in 10 Brits said being in or around blue spaces has even benefitted their personal lives and even fixed relationship issues, while 27% said they sleep better afterwards.
With 86% of Brits saying they live less than 30 minutes away from a blue or green space, it’s clear that the UK has plenty of access to these. Less than 1% of the UK can’t walk to a blue or green space in less than an hour, and interestingly, those who lived closest to blue or green spaces suffered the least with anxiety and depression.
Blue spaces were found to be particularly important to the UK with 55% saying that being in or around water improved their mood, and two in five stating it specifically improves their mental health (41%) and calms their anxiety (39%). The study also revealed a quarter of the UK wish they lived closer to blue spaces and a further 42% said that they actively look for a place to live by some form of water.
Over half (55%) of 16-24-year-olds say they suffer from anxiety or depression.
The need for accessible blue spaces is underlined by the results showing that over half (55%) of 16-24-year-olds say they suffer from mental health problems, reducing to 51% among 25–34-year-olds. This halves for the 55+ age category with only 24% saying they struggle with anxiety or depression. Nevertheless, the findings highlight the importance that blue and green spaces play in tackling the nation’s mental health crisis.
In fact, the research showed one in three of us feel most calm and happy when walking by a body of water, whether that be a lake, canal or the sea. This came second only to spending time with friends and family. Further recognition of the value of blue spaces came with 1 in 10 feeling most calm swimming, whether that be in the sea (11%) or in a pool or lido (10%). Interestingly, the UK would also rather take a nice bath over watching a series on Netflix.
Green spaces are highly valued too with a quarter of those surveyed saying they feel most calm exploring a wood or forest, while a quarter cited visiting a park or garden (24%). One in five women is most calm when planting or gardening.
Overall spending time with family and friends was the top priority for respondents, however, the 55yrs+ demographic would rather spend time by bodies of water (43%).
Better spoke to Jasmine Breaker-Rolfe who was diagnosed with anxiety and depression at aged 14 and was prescribed exercise as a way of improving her mental health:
“I had counselling and they recommended exercise to help. I was given time on a Friday morning to swim with my Auntie which really helped as it gave me time to completely zone out and have space. I always enjoyed swimming and going with my auntie to help my anxiety.
“Swimming pools are incredibly important for mental and physical health, and they also teach life-saving skills to people. I would recommend swimming to anyone suffering with their mental health. It really helped.”