Did You Spend Your Childhood Summers at the Beach? You're Probably a Happier, Healthier Adult, New Study Says

Being near "blue spaces," which include beaches and lakes, during your childhood is linked to better mental health later in life.

Family of three running on the beach happily

Family trips to the beach or lake lead to memories that last a lifetime. Science agrees: A new study revealed that visiting these types of locations as a child can make all the difference when it comes to your wellness later in life. According to research published in Journal of Environmental Psychology, being immersed in "blue spaces," defined as coastal beaches and inland bodies of water, during childhood can boost mental wellness by adulthood.

To dive into this theory, researchers looked into the importance of being exposed to nature during childhood. "Our findings suggest that building familiarity and confidence in and around blue spaces during childhood may stimulate an inherent joy of nature and encourage people to seek out recreational nature experiences," said Valeria Vitale, lead study author and PhD candidate at Sapienza University of Rome, in a statement. "[This has] beneficial consequences for adult mental health."

The team studied data from the BlueHealth International Survey, which included 15,000 people across 18 countries. All participants were tasked with recalling their childhood experiences at blue spaces from the time they were born to 16 years of age. They asked volunteers if they could remember how local the blue spaces were, how often they would visit them, and how much their parents or guardians enjoyed being in those spaces playing with them. Lastly, they asked the participants about the last time they visited a green and blue space in the last month—and how they rated their mental health in the previous two weeks.

They found that the participants who remembered being around blue spaces most in their youth had a greater affinity for nature. In turn, this led them to visit the same types of places as adults, which bolstered their mental health.

"If our findings are supported by longitudinal research that tracks people's exposures over the entire life-course, it would suggest that further work, policies, and initiatives encouraging more blue space experiences during childhood may be a viable way to support the mental health of future generations," said Dr. Mathew White, study co-author and Senior Scientist at the University of Vienna.

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