New research reveals sea swimming’s effect on wellbeing

04th October, 2019

Psychologist and sea swimmer Hannah Denton has published new research on the benefits of sea swimming for mental health and wellbeing. Six regular and competent sea swimmers were interviewed while in the water to describe their experience of swimming as it unfolded.

As previous OSS articles have indicated, there has been growing interest in whether open-water swimming might have some clinical value, particularly for people with depression. However, this is based on anecdotal reports rather than rigorous research.

Hannah explains: “In my analysis of the transcripts, three dimensions of a swim emerged: transformative, connecting and re-orientating. Swimmers described swimming as transformative: they reported identifiable stages over the course of a swim and also described how their mood could change as a result of the experience feeling ‘healing’, ‘resourcing’ and ‘a way to escape’.

“Swimmers also described a strong sense of connection and belonging as a result of swimming; to the natural world, to the place they swim, to other swimmers in the water and also to the swimming community.  Finally, swimmers seemed to find a refreshed perspective as a result of swimming and their interaction with the sea which I described as re-orientating.  All of these dimensions resulted in an improved sense of wellbeing for the swimmers that I interviewed.”

Hannah Denton is a Counselling psychologist at Sussex Partnership Trust. Her full paper can be found at Hannah Denton & Kay Aranda (2019): The wellbeing benefits of sea swimming. Is it time to revisit the sea cure?, Qualitative Research in Sport, Exercise and Health, DOI: 10.1080/2159676X.2019.1649714