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Living near sea 'good for health'
People living near the coast tend to be healthier than those who live inland, scientists have said.
A study published by the European Centre for Environment & Human Health at the University of Exeter's Peninsula College of Medicine says people are more likely to have good health the closer they live to the sea.
The analysis, taken from data compiled for the 2001 Census, also showed that the link between living near the coast and good health was strongest in the most economically deprived communities.
Study lead author Dr Ben Wheeler said: "We know that people usually have a good time when they go to the beach, but there is strikingly little evidence of how spending time at the coast can affect health and well-being. By analysing data for the whole population, our research suggests that there is a positive effect, although this type of study cannot prove cause and effect."
Researchers looked at the proportion of people who reported their health as being "good", rather than "fairly good" or "not good", and then compared this with how close those respondents lived to the coastline.
They also took into account the way that age, sex and a range of social and economic factors, such as education and income, vary across the country.
The results show that, on average, populations living by the sea report rates of good health more than similar populations living inland.
Previous research from the Devon-based academics had shown that the coastal environment also provided significant benefits in terms of stress reduction.
Researchers said one reason those living in coastal communities may attain better physical health could be due to the stress relief offered by spending time near the sea.
Dr Wheeler added: "We need to carry out more sophisticated studies to try to unravel the reasons that may explain the relationship we're seeing. If the evidence is there, it might help to provide governments with the guidance necessary to wisely and sustainably use our valuable coasts to help improve the health of the whole UK population."