Does living near the coast help mitigate health inequalities?

New analysis of Health Survey for England data by Jo Garrett and colleagues suggests that living near the coast may help mitigate health inequalities in urban populations.

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The aim of the study was to investigate the association between mental health and coastal proximity (operationalised into five categories: (1) 0–1 km; (2) >1–5 km; (3) >5–20 km; (4) >20–50 km; (5) >50 km) for urban residents. The team were also interested in whether any association varied according to household income.

Using data from Health Survey for England (2008–2012, N ≥25,963) the analysis showed that people living 0–1km from the coast had significantly lower odds of being at high risk of a common mental disorder, as measured by the GHQ12 and after controlling for other factors, compared to those living further than 50km. Stratification by household income showed that this association was only found amongst the lowest-earning households, and extended to ≤5 km. The team found that “people living in urban areas in the lowest household income quintile are less likely to suffer from a common mental disorder such as anxiety or depression if they live within 5 km of the coast, compared to those living in urban areas further inland (>50 km). In particular, living within 1 km of the coast is associated with the strongest reductions incommon mental disorder likelihood for people from the most economically deprived households.” They suggest that the results indicate that access to the natural environment may partly offset the adverse health and wellbeing outcomes associated with low incomes.

In contrast to the findings of previous studies, living in areas with more freshwater coverage was not related to the mental health measures, after adjusting for confounders, nor was greenspace coverage.

You can read the full paper ‘Coastal proximity and mental health among urban adults in England: The moderating effect of household income’ in Health and Place at doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.102200.

Garrett, J.K., Clitherow, T.J., White, M.P., Wheeler, B.W., Fleming, L.E., 2019. Coastal proximity and mental health among urban adults in England: The moderating effect of household income. Health & Place, onlinefirst https://doi.org/10.1016/j.healthplace.2019.102200.

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