Coastal Communities health, couple, crutches, walking frame
Age and deprivation aside, why do coastal areas still have a higher burden of disease and health risk factors? Why are mortality ratios significantly higher and life expectancy significantly lower than in non-coastal areas? Can ‘blue’ social prescribing, such as wild swimming, be used to promote social connection, improved mental health and wellbeing? 
There is significant experience of ‘green’ social prescribing for people with depression and anxiety, as well as for substance abuse, but questions remain as to whether proximity to the coast can mitigate the effects of:
  • lower-than-average wages
  • seasonal jobs
  • low skills
  • poor education attainment and social immobility.

Tackling health inequality

Creating the UK’s first national marine park

In September 2019, the city of Plymouth announced its intention to establish the UK’s first national marine park, backed by the University of Plymouth. It will look to improve the physical and social infrastructure surrounding Plymouth Sound and use technology to engage people with it. Overall, it aims to to inspire more people to explore, connect with and enjoy the sea.
Aerial view of Plymouth Sound

Coastal Health Outcomes – Contributing to the Chief Medical Officer’s Annual Report 2021

In 2021, research undertaken by Professor Sheena Asthana and Dr Alex Gibson contributed to the Chief Medical Officer’s Report. They found a higher burden of disease and health risk factors in coastal areas, including heart diseases, diabetes, cancer, mental health and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. These see a ‘coastal excess’ even when adjusted for deprivation and factors like ethnicity and challenge the lack of attention that is disproportionately seen for the burden of ill-health in coastal communities.
Looking down over the village of Torcross and the beach at Slapton Sands on the south coast of Devon.

Digital inequity: a major health risk in coastal Britain

“Coastal communities...have some of the worst health outcomes in England, with low life expectancy and high rates of many major diseases.”  
Professor Sir Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer's Annual Report 2021
Researchers at the University of Plymouth, including Professor Ray Jones, Professor Katharine Willis and Professor Sheena Asthana – who contributed to the Chief Medical Officer's Report – have been working to address digital inequities and poor health outcomes in our coastal communities.

Read more about our work targeting digital inequity
coastal community - getty

Community and Primary Care Research Group (CPCRG)

The Community and Primary Care Research Group (CPCRG) is intensively research active and has a strong proven track record of Health Services Research. Our research is conducted through the involvement of practitioners and the public, who are instrumental in helping to develop focused research questions and in designing projects. 
woman inhaling asthmatic cure at home. Woman is living life with chronic illness everyday and overcoming challenges with it.

NIHR ARC North West Coast

A 60+ member organisation covering Cheshire through to South Cumbria (through Merseyside and Lancashire), it brings together academics, professionals and public advisors to co-develop grant applications to co-produce research and implement support. It focuses on health inequalities, integrating co-production, public involvement and capacity building among health and social care providers, local authorities, Third Sector and NHS commissioners. Within the 'Health and Care Across the Lifecourse' theme, they host a Research Development Network, focusing on ways to improve health and wellbeing, and reduce health inequalities in coastal  communities. Currently, there are two grant development subgroups - one on cross-generational beach schools, the other on ways to develop and sustain deep integration of communities in local redevelopment schemes.
Children playing with bubbles - image courtesy of Getty Images


Coastal communities