Dr Mathew White

Dr Mathew White

Environmental Psychologist
European Centre for Environment & Human Health

Although people often report feeling drawn to the sea for health and well-being there is surprisingly little concrete evidence of specific benefits that can be quantified in ways that can be used by policy makers and those keen to preserve marine and coastal environments from over development.

The talk summarises our recent research which suggests that marine and coastal environments have substantial potential benefits to health and well-being that can be quantified using standard measures of health. While recognizing the debate about valuing the benefits of nature in monetary terms, the talk also argues that unless such monetization takes place, the values people ‘know to be true in their hearts’ may be underestimated and ignored.

Working with data from the Health Survey for England, for example, we estimate that the benefit to the health budget in terms of cost savings associated with the amount of physical activity engaged in while surfing, may be as much as £8million per year. Other, less tangible, benefits from surfing are also apparent. For instance, a study conducted in collaboration with GB Boardriders CIC, suggests that the well-being and behaviour of children at risk or excluded from school can be significantly improved following a carefully constructed 12 week surf intervention programme, with the potential for long-term benefits to individuals and communities.

Although there is still work to be done, these messages are starting to be heard in policy circles in both the UK, Europe and further afield.

Watch the talk

About the speaker

Mat White is an environmental psychologist who focuses on improving our understanding of how interacting with natural environments can help combat stress and other mental health issues. His recent work has focused on the mental health and wellbeing benefits of aquatic and marine environments in particular using a range of research approaches including analysis of large data sets, field trials, laboratory experiments and qualitative interviews.

He has coordinated the ‘Blue Gym’ project since its inception in 2011. This project focuses on child health and wellbeing from natural aquatic environments.

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