Study Shows Living Near Water Can Help Reduce Stress

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When you go on vacation, where do you want to stay? On the beach (or lake), with a beautiful water view. Why? Because it’s soothing, right? Now, there’s new scientific confirmation that living near visible water helps calm us down and brings relief from stress.

The study, published in the journal Health & Place, looked at the effects of green (trees and vegetation) and blue (water) spaces on one’s well-being. Want to take a guess at what the researchers discovered?

“Higher levels of blue space visibility were associated with lower psychological distress,” according to the study.

ocean photo
Getty Images | Vittorio Zunino Celotto

In other words, the more you’re exposed to water, the less stressed you’ll be. Anyone who’s ever visited a beachfront resort and slept with the window open can relate to that!

So if you have the chance to live on a body of water, or when on vacation, ask for the room with the (blue) view.


What Did They Study?

The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand and Michigan State University in the United States.

To get at the effects of blue space, aka water, on our wellbeing, the researchers looked at various residential areas in the city of Wellington, New Zealand.

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The city, which is super urban, is flanked by the Tasman Sea to the north and by the Pacific Ocean to the south, so there’s lots of water in view from various places. The city has forests and grassy parks, too.

The researchers looked at data from the New Zealand Health Survey, a national survey that measures all sorts of health indicators of New Zealanders every year. They focused on data related to the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale, which measures anxiety and mood disorders.

Even when they took into account the other factors that could lead to improved well-being, such as wealth, age and gender, the researchers found that New Zealanders with a view of the water had improved mental health.

Surprisingly, their view of green space — parks and trees — did not have an effect on their well-being.

forest photo
Getty Images | Dan Kitwood

Why is that? Researchers have a theory.

“It could be because the blue space was all natural, while the green space included human-made areas, such as sports fields and playgrounds, as well as natural areas such as native forests,” said the study’s co-author, Amber Pearson. “Perhaps if we only looked at native forests we might find something different.”

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Pearson says this research is important because mental health disorders are becoming increasingly common across the world.

The research could inform city planners, who might consider building affordable homes near water so their residents have views of the ocean.

What do you think? Would you rather have an ocean view or live in a forest with lots of green trees around?

Products That Have Been Proven To Help Relieve Stress

Looking for other ways to reduce stress? Consider some of these products.

Adult coloring book

What it is: The coloring book craze has been playing out for a couple of years now. Illustrators have created dozens of themed books designed just for adults—Edgar Allan Poe, snarky mandalas, serene scenes, stress-relieving patterns. Nobody gives a darn whether you color in the lines.

Why it’s good for stress: To get this right, you’ll probably want to go with a coloring book that’s full of mandalas or other geometric patterns. That’s because a 2005 study found that coloring mandalas helped reduce anxiety levels in adults. The researchers believe that coloring in complex patterns helped induce a meditative state.

Buy it: Adult Coloring Book – Stress Relieving Patterns, $6.85

Adult Coloring Book: Stress Relieving Patterns

Fidget cube

What it is: It looks like a toy, but it’s actually a stress cube for adults who like to fidget. Whether you’re a clicker, flicker, roller or a spinner, you can fidget with this device. The six-sided cube has seven stress-relieving features.

Why it’s good for stress: Research has shown that these kinds of “fidget widgets” can boost your memory and help you focus while also detracting from stress.

Buy it: PILPOC theFube Fidget Cube, $12.99


Funny face dog toys

What it is: A ridiculous toy that, when your dog clutches it in his mouth, will give him an animated, cartoon-like smile.

Why it’s good for stress: For starters, your pet can help you reduce stress, obesity and cholesterol levels, according to studies from the National Institutes of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But tack on some laughter, and you’re doubling down on stress because a good laugh can also reduce tension.

Buy it: Hangqiao Funny Pet Dog Teeth Silicon Toy Puppy Chew, $6.99

dog smiley

Here’s to all the ways we can reduce stress and live our best lives!