Older people with sea views may have ‘significantly lower risk of depression’

ESRI study examines separate effects of proximity to coast and sea views with mental health impact

A paper published by the ESRI found that those living closer to the coast had a lower risk of depression than people who lived farther away. Photograph: iStock

A paper published by the ESRI found that those living closer to the coast had a lower risk of depression than people who lived farther away. Photograph: iStock

 

Older people lucky enough to have homes with extensive sea views have a significantly lower risk of depression than the those who are land-locked, new Irish research suggests.

A paper published by researchers at the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) found that those living closer to the coast had a lower risk of depression than people who lived farther away.

This was the case even after other factors that might be associated with lower depression risk, such as gender, socio-economic status, use of medication and social engagement, had been taken into account, the institute said.

The researchers said their findings supported the view that the main way in which blue space benefited mental health among the older population was “via the visual aspect, rather than proximity”.

However, they also admitted the nature of their data meant they could not be certain that blue space was causing a reduction in depression risk, only that the association between them was “consistent with the possibility of a beneficial effect”.

Outcomes

The ESRI said this was the first study to consider the separate effects of proximity to the coast and coastal sea views on mental health outcomes.

The research linked data from the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing (TILDA) – a nationally representative study of people aged 50 and over in Ireland – with data from Ordnance Survey Ireland measuring how close each respondent’s house was to the coast and how extensive (if any) their sea view was.

It found the most significant difference was between those who had no view and those who had the most extensive views, with the latter group having a “significantly” lower risk of depression.

“The findings of this research suggest that sea views, rather than proximity to the sea, provides mental health benefits in the older population,” the ESRI said.

Anne Nolan of the institute said: “These findings underlie the public health benefits of policies to protect and enhance coastal blue spaces, and suggest that urban planning should take these benefits into account.”

The research, entitled Coastal Blue Space and Depression in Older Adults, was carried out under a programme funded by the Environmental Protection Agency.

The goal of the programme is to provide “robust evidence for environmental policy, focusing on the interface between social and economic processes and the environment”.

TILDA, a study carried out by researchers at Trinity College Dublin, gathers data on people age 50 and over in Ireland. It is funded by the Department of Health, The Atlantic Philanthropies and Irish Life.