Can beach cleans be good for your mental health?

By: Erin O'Neill
Date posted: 18 May 2018

The link between mental health and nature is one that is often discussed – it is well-known that people might go for a walk on the beach when they are feeling stressed, or go swimming in the sea to feel more at peace.

We all feel a sense of satisfaction at the coast and I am constantly told how much people who come to our beach cleans enjoyed themselves, which is supported by the research we are carrying out.

Lauren Eyles,
Beachwatch Programme Manager
Marine Conservation Society

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) have been in Hereford as part of a Health and Wellbeing Day. Wye Valley NHS Trust’s Health@Work department organised the event to fundraise for a good cause and show their appreciation for their staff. Prizes are donated by local companies and the funds they raise this year will be donated to MCS, these funds will go on to help protect our oceans, beaches and marine life.

Recent research, carried out by MCS with Dr Kayleigh Wyles from the University of Surrey and Dr Sabine Pahl from the University of Plymouth has illustrated how beach cleans can have a positive effect on the wellbeing of those who take part.

Lauren Eyles, Beachwatch Programme Manager at MCS said: “We are really grateful to the department for fundraising for us as part of their Health and Wellbeing Day, along with our friends from Plymouth and Surrey University to help us connect health and the ocean together.”

“We all feel a sense of satisfaction at the coast and I am constantly told how much people who come to our beach cleans enjoyed themselves, which is supported by the research we are carrying out. We must protect this resource not only for its amazing wildlife, but because we love it and its powers are invaluable for us.”

Early research showed that going to the coast (regardless of the activity you pursued) offered numerous benefits, including an improvement in mood. Interestingly, it also indicated that taking part in a beach clean actually enhanced these benefits.

Specifically, participants doing a beach clean reported as having a greater experience and found it more meaningful than other seaside activities, including rock pooling and a coastal walk.

We explored this link in greater detail to further understand these benefits. Initial analysis suggested that the main reasons people were volunteering included helping the environment, protecting wildlife, and making a difference.

Volunteers reported feeling refreshed and as though they had a stronger connection to the natural world after a beach clean, as well as perceiving the beach to be visibly cleaner. They also felt more informed and concerned about marine litter.

MCS organises beach cleans throughout the UK. The Great British Beach Clean is our annual event on the 3rd weekend of September. It’s the biggest beach clean and survey in the UK and provides a valuable insight into the litter problems our seas and oceans are facing - as our research has shown, you could end up feeling great for having taken part.

Actions you can take

  1. Join a beach clean
  2. Visit the beachwatch website
  3. Organise a beach clean
  4. Help us stop the plastic tide
  5. Download the Great British Beach Clean Report 2018

Did you know?…

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK

Around 40% of UK beach litter can be directly sourced to the public

Since the carrier bag charge came in across the UK, the Great British Beach Clean has recorded 40% fewer bags on beaches

Why not join a beach clean ... or organise one?

To date, our beach clean volunteers have removed 6 million pieces of litter from our beaches and collected marine litter data to support our campaigns for cleaner seas and beaches.

Learn more and join a beach clean