Challenging the Victorian myth – can sea air actually benefit your health?

Lots of people walking and standing along a pier, with bunting overhead and terraced housing in the background.

It was the cure for everything back in the day, from lung disease to arthritis to anxiety. But what does science have to say about this old remedy?

In the Victorian era, if you went to a doctor with almost any issue under the sun, chances were they’d prescribe you a trip to the seaside. Got a cough? Sea air. Joint pain? Sea air. Depression? Nice trip to the seaside. Victorians held a firm belief that all ills were caused by miasma – cholera, Black Death, even chlamydia was caused by this so-called ‘bad air’ found in smoggy towns. So the prescription was to benefit from a good dose of clean sea air.

But surely we know better than that by now?

At the very least, we can be fairly sure that miasma isn’t to blame. But while sea air isn’t quite the miracle cure old timey doctors claimed, there is some truth to the myth. Time by the sea can improve your physical and mental health. Here’s just some of the ways the seaside magic can better your health – but with science this time.

Getting away from air pollution

Image of seagulls flying over a coastal city.

While the Victorians weren’t quite right about why the sea air helped, they were right about it being healthier. There’s no such thing as miasma or bad air, but there is pollution. And a small seaside town is bound to have less air pollution than a big city.

So yes, your lungs can feel the benefits of taking in the sea air – but more because they’re breathing in less pollution rather than the sea air being particularly special.

That being said…

Believe it or not, some studies have shown that the salty sea air can lessen symptoms of lung diseases. One study on cystic fibrosis reported that the sea air helped to thin mucus, reduce coughing and improve lung functioning. Though, this may again be due to the lessening in pollution.

So sea air may not be a miracle cure for all ailments, but it can be more helpful than you’d think.

The great outdoors

A small white and brown terrier dog running along a white beach, with a person in the distance.

Greenspaces have been known to benefit mental health. But, a 2022 study showed that the benefits of the seaside are even greater. Spending time near water can be restorative, from the calming rush of the tides to the cold awakening of hitting the water. Alongside warm sun, beautiful skies, open outdoor spaces, and those beach holiday vibes… the seaside is the ideal place to relax.

And, with the sun shining outside and huge stretches of beach, you’ve got the perfect atmosphere for exercise. Whether it’s a brief stroll by the sea, or a swim in its depths, the seaside offers us numerous opportunities for physical activity.

And all the while, your body is soaking in vitamin D from the sun – assuming it’s summer. So you can stay energised, exercised, and get a natural boost to your mental health.

The sun has a ton more benefits for our health – read more

Miracle cure or malarkey?

Overhead image of huge green cliffs by the sea, with a small bay.

It definitely isn’t the solution to any and all ailments as the Victorians may have thought. But the sea air can offer a lot of benefits to both physical and mental health. The clean air, shining sun and close proximity to the sea can all better our minds and bodies.

At the end of the day, it’s all the basics we already know – don’t inhale too much pollution, go outside and get some sun on your skin. The beach just happens to be an ideal place to do so.

Read all about it

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About Aiden Winn
Aiden is an editorial and production junior at Title Media whilst also studying for their English master’s degree. He’s constantly looking for opportunities to have fun and get creative, whether it be art, baking, storytelling… you name it!

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