This study has compared the general health of Belgian citizens living close to the coast with those who reside inland.
Using data from over 60,000 respondents in the Belgian Health Interview Survey, it has found that populations living less than 5 km from the coast reported better general health than those living between 50km and 100km away.
Four possible mechanisms were considered to explain this link but no indirect associations were found: scores for mental health, physical activity levels and social contacts were not higher closer to the coast.
Air pollution was also lower at the coast but was not statistically associated with better health.
Researchers used linear regression and mediation analyses and controlled for typical variables such as age, sex, income, and local levels of green and blue space. The impacts of mixed urban, rural and nature-based environments at the Belgian coast are discussed.
The positive associations between oceans and human health observed in this study encourage policy makers to manage coastal areas sustainably and protect public health benefits for the future.