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Fishing could help people suffering from serious mental health problems

Gardening is another activity that is known to reduce mental stress.

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Grandfather and grandson with fishing rod on sunny beach
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By Danny Halpin via SWNS

Fishing could help people tackle mental health problems, according to a new survey.

Significantly fewer people who went fishing said they suffered from anxiety, had attempted suicide, or had self-harmed compared to those who don’t fish.

The research, carried out by Anglia Ruskin University in the UK (ARU), Angling Direct Plc and the charity Tackling Minds, surveyed 1,900 UK adults.

Last year, Tackling Minds won its campaign to get angling recognized as an official social prescribing activity by the UK's National Health Service because of the mental and well-being benefits it brings.

Gardening is another activity that is known to reduce mental stress.

The charity's founder, David Lyons, said: "We have been told on numerous occasions by our service users that if it were not for the fishing sessions, they don’t think they’d be alive today.

“To now have scientific evidence to back up what we’ve been saying all along, is unbelievable, to say the least.

“The wider implications this research will have, not only in the angling sector but also mental health provision will be amazing to see.”

People’s main motivations for fishing were because of the challenge and to relax, and this was true across people with disabilities and those without.

Research from a different study by ARU found that the waterside pastime is relatively accessible to the disabled, though it did identify some barriers such as costs, lack of transport and lack of companions to fish with.

family, generation, summer holidays and people concept - happy grandfather and grandson with fishing rods on river berth
(Ground Picture via Shutterstock)

The current study, which is currently being peer-reviewed for the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, found that 16.5 percent of respondents who fish said they suffered from an anxiety disorder, compared to 26.4 percent of those who don’t.

Half the number of anglers said they had self-harmed (10.4 percent) compared to those who don’t fish (20.6 percent).

And 7.5 percent said they had attempted suicide compared to 13.2 percent of non-anglers.

Professor Lee Smith of ARU said: “Recreational fishing is very popular in the UK, with about two million people taking part in the pastime in 2019.

“Our published study found that it is an accessible sport, despite the presence of some barriers.

“We know from previous studies that exposure to aquatic environments, known as blue spaces, is associated with improved mental health and well-being.

“The work we have carried out has highlighted that individuals who fish have lower levels of diagnosed anxiety disorder, suicide attempts and instances of deliberate self-harm compared to those who did not fish.

“This would suggest that encouraging participation in fishing could be a good dual-method strategy for both promoting relaxation and good mental health as well as encouraging increased levels of physical activity within those with mental health issues such as anxiety disorder.”

Andy Torrance, CEO of Angling Direct Plc said: “At Angling Direct our purpose is to get everyone fishing.

“Anglers have long known that the combination of fishing combined with relaxation in the outdoors is great for their general well-being and mental health.

“We’re delighted to be working on this with Anglia Ruskin University and Tackling Minds and are very excited about its potential implications to support social prescribing and further public health interventions.”

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