- The Washington Times
Wednesday, May 4, 2016

An ocean view can help cure the blues, according to a new study. Researchers compared mental health with visibility of blue and green spaces among residents of Wellington, New Zealand, and determined that individuals residing near bodies of water are less psychologically distressed that those surrounded by forests and parks.

The study, published in the May issue of the academic journal Health & Place, is the first to find an association between health and visibility of water, according to Michigan State University.

“Increased views of blue space is significantly associated with lower levels of psychological distress,” said MSU’s Amber L. Pearson, an assistant professor of health geography at the school and a co-author of the study.

“However, we did not find that with green space,” she said in a statement released by the university.

Ms. Pearson and her colleagues used topographical data for New Zealand’s urban capital and mapped it alongside mental health data collected by the government’s national health survey. After taking into consideration factors including wealth, age, and sex of Wellington residents, the researchers concluded that Kiwis exposed to more blue spaces, like rivers and oceans, are calmer than those surrounded by green spaces.

“It could be because the blue space was all natural, while the green space included human-made areas, such as sports fields and playgrounds, as well as natural areas such as native forests,” she said. “Perhaps if we only looked at native forests we might find something different.”

“As urbanization escalates globally, urban neighborhood features which may improve physical and mental health are of growing importance,” the study noted.

Surrounded by the Tasman Sea on the north and the Pacific Ocean to its south, New Zealand’s capital city has a population of over 200,000. Researchers analyzed data pertaining to 442 residents of Wellington that was collected during the 2011/12 New Zealand Health Survey for use in the study.

“Further research is needed to confirm whether increased visibility of blue space could promote mental well-being and reduce distress in other cities,” wrote its authors.

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