Norfolk’s coast dwellers endorse study saying it’s good for our health to live beside the seaside

For many people, the equation has always been a simple one - seaside sights, sounds and smells add up to sunny smiles.

And now the equation has been given scientific backing, with a study proving that not only do we like to be beside the seaside, but it also has psychological benefits.

For while a walk in the park might be a walk in the park, a stroll along a sandy or stone-strewn beach has more impact on emotional wellbeing.

The results of the study, by the European Centre for Environment and Human Health (ECEHH), came as no surprise to coastal dwellers in Norfolk.

Hilary Thompson, joint president of the Cromer and Sheringham Crab and Lobster Festival, grew up in Mundesley and has lived in Cromer for 20 years.

She said: 'The sea is so dynamic. To see the changes of mood of the sea and the sky is one of the most beneficial things. I've lived away from the seaside and have always had the urge to come back.

'It's the smells of the seaside as well. The seaside brings you alive as a person because it makes you aware of your senses.'

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Peter Williamson, managing director of Merrivale Model Village at Great Yarmouth and chairman of the Norfolk Tourist Attractions Association, said: 'The draw of the British seaside is exactly what it says on the tin - a quintessential trip to the coast: the bracing sea breeze, the sandy beach and everything it has to offer.

'Fish and chips on the pier, a picnic on the sand, 2p in the penny pushers or a trip to Southwold. The seaside has a magnetic draw to people - even in the winter when it's bitterly cold.'

Greg Hayman, Cromer's mayor, lived in cities for many years, but in recent years moved to Cromer, where his home overlooks the North Sea.

He said: 'There's something very relaxing about the sea and the way it is a big blank canvas that's constantly changing, so your outlook is being constantly re-invented, sometimes by the minute.

'The sound of the sea is also fantastically relaxing. And you get that high energy when you have massive storms, which are so invigorating.

'The seaside also seems to affect people's mood. When you walk on the front, people smile and say 'hello'. People don't do that as much in the city.'

Researchers looked at data from 2,750 participants in a two-year study of people's engagement with the natural environment.

All outdoor locations were associated with positive feelings of enjoyment, calmness and refreshment. But visits to the coast were the most beneficial, while urban parks had the least effect.

Mathew White, from ECEHH, said: 'There is a lot of work on the beneficial effects of visiting natural environments, but our findings suggest it is time to move beyond a simple 'urban versus rural' debate and start looking at the effect that different natural environments have on people's health and wellbeing.'

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