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[ROLLIN' ON THE RIVER] Canals, rivers linked to mental, social wellbeing

Spending time by canals and rivers is linked to feeling happy and healthy, a recent study shows. Researchers report that the combination of blue and green space with wildlife has a greater impact on wellbeing than spending time in an environment that is characterized by only green space.

The researchers used Urban Mind, a smartphone-based app, to collect real-time audits about participants’ location and mental wellbeing. Specifically, participants completed an ecological momentary assessment three times a day for 14 days. Each assessment included questions about their surrounding environment and mental wellbeing. A total of 7,975 assessments were completed by 299 participants, including 87 with a diagnosis of mental illness

Results showed positive associations between visits to canals and rivers and mental wellbeing, as well as a positive experience for feelings of safety and social inclusion relative to all other types of environments (such as indoors, or outside in an urban environment, or near green spaces). People also reported continued improvements in their mental wellbeing for up to 24 hours after the visit had taken place.

Andrea Mechelli, a professor of Early Intervention in Mental Health, King’s College London, commented: “Canals and rivers contain not only water but also an abundance of trees and plants, which means their capacity to improve mental wellbeing is likely to be due to the multiple benefits associated with both green and blue spaces. Canals and rivers also provide homes to a range of wildlife, and we know from other research that there is a positive association between encountering wildlife and mental wellbeing. Taken collectively, these findings provide an evidence base for what we thought about water and wellbeing and support the proposal that visits to canals and rivers could become part of social prescribing schemes, playing a role in supporting mental health.”

To read the study, “The mental health benefits of visiting canals and rivers: An ecological momentary assessment study,” click here

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