How living by water benefits your mental health

As a boater you'll intuitively know that being among nature is good for you, but did you know a recent study has proved that spending time by canals and rivers is linked to feeling happy and healthy?

Researchers in partnership with the Canal & River Trust report that spending time in blue and green spaces with wildlife not only boosts our well-being, but has an even greater impact than environments that only have green space, and makes us feel safer and less lonely than in all other types of environments.

What was discovered?

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The results of a study carried out by King’s College London, Nomad Projects and J & L Gibbons in partnership with the Canal & River Trust shows that spending time by canals and rivers is directly linked to improvements in our mental health and well-being.

Researchers found that blue and green space with wildlife has a more significant impact on our happiness and health than spending time in an environment that has only green space.

The researchers used a smartphone app called Urban Mind to collect data in real time about participants’ mental well-being and their location.

Results showed not only positive associations between visits to canals and rivers and mental well-being, but also greater feelings of safety and social inclusion in comparison to all other types of environments (such as indoors, or outside in urban environments or near green spaces).

This relationship was still present when accounting for individual variation due to age, gender, ethnicity, education and a diagnosis of a mental health condition. Participants also reported continued improvements in their mental well-being for up to 24 hours after visiting canals and rivers.

How can we use this?

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The findings of this report give evidence for what the researchers already thought about water and well-being, that those of us living by water also know intuitively: that spending time by natural blue and green spaces with wildlife such as canals and rivers has a positive impact on our health and happiness.

It also supports the idea that visits to canals and rivers should become part of social prescribing schemes to support mental health. This means the report could lead to patients being professionally prescribed time spent by canals and rivers to support mental well-being and overall health.

From industry to health and well-being

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Canals have transformed from passageways built for industry to repurposed green and blue spaces that benefit our health and happiness, improve our quality of life and bring nature into urban spaces. The research suggests that this new role of canals might be equally as important to society.

Our canal network is vulnerable to climate change, so given this new study that proves its importance to our health and happiness, keeping them safe and attractive is necessary.

Our sites are located on some of Britain's most stunning canal and river networks, such as Great Haywood Marina on the Trent & Mersey, Tattenhall Marina on the Shropshire Union, Saul Junction Marina on the Gloucester and Sharpness, and Roydon Marina Village on the River Stort in Lee Valley Regional Park.

It seems life really is better by water! If you're feeling in need of a boost, just head down to your favourite canalside spot and see how you feel.

Source: Canal & River Trust

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