In Case You Need Another Reason to Buy a Beach House

In the last decade or so, researchers have become increasingly interested in how "natural environments" in urban landscapes affect our health, both mentally and physically. focusstock/Getty Images

While Fraulein Maria can spin herself silly rhapsodizing about rolling hills, it turns out that it's the ocean views that you really might want to seek out when your heart is lonely. Or your mind is unwell.

In a recent study published in the journal Health & Place, researchers found that Wellington, New Zealand, residents with water views (or blue space) had lower levels of psychological distress than those with views of green space. The study included 442 participants, 260 females and 182 males aged 15 or older.  

The researchers used a novel method to measure the visibility of ocean and green spaces. Called the Vertical Visibility Index (VVI), the method allows researchers to quantify how much of the green and blue space can be viewed from a human perspective, by taking into account slope, distance and other factors. The research found that a higher visibility of blue space was significantly associated with lower psychological distress.

Keep in mind that Wellington's blue space is primarily ocean, as opposed to freshwater rivers or lakes. More research would need to be done to determine if you have to spring for the Malibu beach house for a mental health boost, or if you could get the same sense of peace from a Grandpa's old fishing shanty on a nearby stream. Likewise, green spaces in the study were lumped together. A soccer pitch, for instance, was considered just as "green" as an old-growth forest.

Another limitation of the study that the authors point out? The design didn't account for the length of time that a person had been living in a neighborhood with blue space. Do the ocean views do good things for your mental health right off the bat, or does it take a while for those benefits to kick in?

So while you should absolutely use the study as an excuse to buy the summer house on the beach, it also might be that natural green spaces (like native forests) also have a beneficial effect on our health, too. Fraulein Maria might be onto something after all.