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Positive childhood experiences of blue spaces linked to better mental health during adulthood
Childhood nature experiences may be important in the development of an individual's relationship with nature and subsequent well-being. Several studies have revealed that spending time in and around green spaces such as parks and woodlands is associated with stress reduction and better mental health. However, the benefit of blue spaces comprising of sea coasts, lakes and rivers or impact...
Childhood nature experiences may be important in the development of an individual's relationship with nature and subsequent well-being. Several studies have revealed that spending time in and around green spaces such as parks and woodlands is associated with stress reduction and better mental health. However, the benefit of blue spaces comprising of sea coasts, lakes and rivers or impact of its contact during childhood has not been studied.
Researchers have found in a new research that adults with better mental health are more likely to report having spent time playing in and around coastal and inland waters, such as rivers and lakes as children. The finding was replicated in each of the countries studied.
Data came from the BlueHealth International Survey (BIS), a cross-sectional survey co-ordinated by the University of Exeter's European Centre for Environment and Human Health. The current analysis used data from over 15,000 people across 14 European Countries and 4 other non-European countries/regions (Hong Kong, Canada, Australia and California).
Respondents were asked to recall their blue space experiences between the ages of 0-16 years including how local they were, how often they visited them, and how comfortable their parents/guardians were with them playing in these settings, as well as more recent contact with green and blue spaces over the last four weeks, and mental health over the last two weeks.
The research, published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, found that individuals who recalled more childhood blue space experiences tended to place greater intrinsic value on natural settings in general, and to visit them more often as adults – each of which, in turn, were associated with better mental wellbeing in adulthood.
Valeria Vitale,Lead author and PhD Candidate at Sapienza University of Rome, said: "In the context of an increasingly technological and industrialized world, it's important to understand how childhood nature experiences relate to wellbeing in later life.
"Our findings suggest that building familiarity and confidence in and around blue spaces during childhood may stimulate an inherent joy of nature and encourage people to seek out recreational nature experiences, with beneficial consequences for adult mental health."
Dr Leanne Martin, Co-author and Postdoctoral Research Associate at the University of Exeter's European Centre for Environment and Human Health, said: "Water settings can be dangerous for children, and parents are right to be cautious. This research suggests though that supporting children to feel comfortable in these settings and developing skills such as swimming at an early age can have previously unrecognised life-long benefits."
Dr Mathew White, Co-author and Senior Scientist at the University of Vienna, said: "The current study is adding to our growing awareness of the need for urban planners and local bodies responsible for managing our green and blue spaces to provide safe, accessible access to natural settings for the healthy mental and physical development of our children.
"If our findings are supported by longitudinal research that tracks people's exposures over the entire life-course, it would suggest that further work, policies and initiatives encouraging more blue space experiences during childhood may be a viable way to support the mental health of future generations."
The study is entitled 'Mechanisms underlying childhood exposure to blue spaces and adult subjective well-being: An 18-country analysis' and published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology. The project was funded by the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No. 66773.
Valeria Vitale, Leanne Martin, Mathew P. White, Lewis R. Elliott, Kayleigh J. Wyles, Matthew H.E.M. Browning, Sabine Pahl, Patricia Stehl, Simon Bell, Gregory N. Bratman, Mireia Gascon, James Grellier, Maria L. Lima, Mare Lõhmus, Mark Nieuwenhuijsen, Ann Ojala, Jane Taylor, Matilda van den Bosch, Netta Weinstein, Lora E. Fleming, Mechanisms underlying childhood exposure to blue spaces and adult subjective well-being: An 18-country analysis, Journal of Environmental Psychology, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvp.2022.101876
Dr Kamal Kant Kohli-MBBS, DTCD- a chest specialist with more than 30 years of practice and a flair for writing clinical articles, Dr Kamal Kant Kohli joined Medical Dialogues as a Chief Editor of Medical News. Besides writing articles, as an editor, he proofreads and verifies all the medical content published on Medical Dialogues including those coming from journals, studies,medical conferences,guidelines etc. Before Joining Medical Dialogues, he has served at important positions in the medical industry in India including as the Hony. Secretary of the Delhi Medical Association as well as the chairman of Anti-Quackery Committee in Delhi and worked with other Medical Councils in India. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact no. 011-43720751